military

FILE PHOTO: Firearms are displayed at Gun City gunshop in Christchurch
FILE PHOTO: Firearms are displayed at Gun City gunshop in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/File Photo

March 21, 2019

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday that military style semi-automatics and assault rifles will be banned under stronger new gun laws following the killing of 50 people in the country’s worst mass shooting.

Ardern said she expects the new law to be in place by April 11 and buy-back scheme will be established for banned weapons.

“Now, six days after this attack, we are announcing a ban on all military style semi-automatics (MSSA) and assault rifles in New Zealand,” Ardern said.

“Related parts used to convert these guns into MSSAs are also being banned, along with all high-capacity magazines.”

(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Michael Perry)

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FILE PHOTO: Guatemalan Attorney General Aldana participates in a news conference in Guatemala City
FILE PHOTO: Guatemalan Attorney General Thelma Aldana participates in a news conference in Guatemala City, Guatemala, August 28, 2017. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas/File Photo

March 21, 2019

By Nelson Renteria

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) – A Guatemalan presidential candidate known for tackling high-profile corruption as attorney general said on Wednesday that she would return from neighboring El Salvador within days despite an arrest warrant.

A judge on Monday ordered the arrest of Thelma Aldana, a former attorney general who helped topple and imprison a former president on corruption charges and investigated current President Jimmy Morales, who has largely dismantled the country’s U.N.-backed anti-corruption investigative body known as CICIG.

The country’s electoral tribunal confirmed her candidacy in the June presidential election on Tuesday, shortly after news reports circulated of the order.

Aldana said if she wins, she would make government efficient and transparent as well as strengthen CICIG, adding that the accusations against her were politically motivated to undermine her bid for top office.

“No, I’m not scared. They’re the ones who are scared,” Aldana told Reuters in an interview in El Salvador’s capital, where she had previously scheduled activities. “When I go back to Guatemala… I’ll do it with complete calm, I’ll do it without a single problem.”

The arrest order includes charges of embezzlement, lying and tax fraud. Aldana said she plans to return to Guatemala on Thursday or Friday and had not been notified of the warrant. Under Guatemalan law, she holds immunity as a presidential candidate.

In January, Morales’ government said it was terminating CICIG, after already banning the group’s head from the country.

Aldana had worked with CICIG to investigate President Jimmy Morales for campaign financing violations. She and CICIG previously led the probe into former President Otto Perez Molina that triggered his impeachment and ousted him from office. He remains in custody on charges of involvement in a customs corruption ring.

If she wins, Aldana said she would ask the United Nations to formally expand the anti-corruption mandate of the CICIG, which was originally formed to investigate illegal security forces.

“Clandestine security bodies embedded in the state motivated the Guatemalan government 10 years ago to go to the United Nations … but they’re still there,” she said.

Aldana added that she is against a law proposed by Morales’ party that would free military officials convicted of human rights crimes during the Central American country’s 36-year civil war, which has sparked criticism from international rights groups.

“Without a doubt, it’s a proposal that could generate impunity and obviously I’m not in favor of approving it,” she said.

(Reporting by Nelson Renteria; Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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Palestinian protesters hurl stones at Israeli troops during clashes near the Jewish settlement of Beit El, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank
Palestinian protesters hurl stones at Israeli troops during clashes near the Jewish settlement of Beit El, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

March 21, 2019

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – A Palestinian was killed by Israeli gunfire in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian medics said, and the military announced on Thursday that a soldier had discharged his weapon and it was reviewing the incident.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said one of its crews treated a man with two bullet wounds at an Israeli military roadblock near the city of Bethlehem on Wednesday and that Israeli forces had shot him.

It gave no details about the circumstances of the night-time shooting. The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the man as a 26-year-old from Bethlehem and said another Palestinian had also been shot and critically wounded.

Hours later, the Israeli military issued a statement saying that a soldier stationed at a post near Bethlehem had “identified rocks being thrown at Israeli vehicles (and) in response, he fired his weapon”.

The statement did not identify the soldier’s intended target and some Israeli media reports said warning shots were fired in the air, suggesting the two Palestinians may have been hit unintentionally.

“A report was received regarding injured Palestinians,” the military said. “Details regarding the incident are being reviewed and the incident will be examined.”

Tensions have been high in the West Bank since a Palestinian killed an Israeli soldier and a rabbi in a stabbing and shooting attack in the territory on Sunday.

Israeli forces on Tuesday killed the alleged assailant near the West Bank city of Ramallah after he opened fire at troops who had come to arrest him, Israel’s Shin Bet security service said.

In a separate incident on Tuesday, two other Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces during clashes near the West Bank city of Nablus.

Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war. Palestinians seek to establish a state there and in the Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed in 2014.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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People are reflected in a puddle as they pass by a mural near the EU headquarters in Brussels
People are reflected in a puddle as they pass by a mural near the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville

March 21, 2019

By Robin Emmott and Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union will discuss a more defensive strategy on China on Thursday, potentially signaling an end to the unfettered access that Chinese business has enjoyed in Europe but which Beijing has failed to reciprocate.

Caught between a new U.S.-Chinese rivalry for economic and military power, EU leaders will try to find a middle path during a summit dinner in Brussels, the first time they have discussed at the highest level how to deal with Beijing.

“We are fully open,” European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen said of the EU’s economy. “China is not, and it raises lots of questions,” Katainen told Reuters, arguing that the world’s second-largest economy could no longer claim special status as a developing country.

Meeting as Chinese President Xi Jinping starts a tour of France and Italy, EU leaders – who have often been divided over China – want to present a united front ahead of an EU-China summit on April 9.

According to a draft April summit statement seen by Reuters, the EU is seeking to set deadlines for China to make good on trade and investment pledges that have been repeatedly pushed back, although Beijing must still agree to the final text.

That was a message delivered to State Councillor Wang Yi by EU foreign ministers on Monday. It marked a shift toward what EU diplomats say is a more “assertive and competitive mindset”.

“In the past, it has been extremely difficult for the EU to formulate a clear strategy on China, and past policy documents have not been strategically coherent,” said Duncan Freeman at the EU-China Research Centre at the College of Europe. “There is now a clear effort to do that.”

In a document to prepare the EU summit, the European Commission called China a “systemic rival”.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign to warn against Huawei telecommunications equipment in next-generation wireless networks has accelerated EU discussions about its position.

The deepest tensions lie around China’s slowness to open up its economy, a surge of Chinese takeovers in critical sectors and an impression that Beijing has not stood up for free trade.

GERMANY IS KEY

With over a billion euros a day in bilateral trade, the EU is China’s top trading partner, while China is second only to the United States as a market for European goods and services.

Chinese trade restrictions are more severe than EU barriers in almost every economic sector, according to research firm Rhodium Group and the Mercator Institute for China Studies.

Unlike the United States, which has a naval fleet based in Japan to wield influence over the region, the EU lacks any military power to confront China, so its approach is technical.

But any new EU policies could prove complicated to implement, as EU capitals continue to court Chinese investment. Italy plans to join China’s multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road infrastructure project, while free-traders Ireland, Sweden and the Netherlands are wary of any restrictions on commerce.

Germany’s views will be important as Berlin has at times pressed for a tougher response to unfair competition from Chinese rivals but also championed a closer relationship with Beijing.

“Their position needs to stabilize. At the moment it changes on almost every day of the week,” the senior envoy said.

(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Source: OANN

Late senator John McCain is honored during the 2018 Iran Uprising Summit in New York
Late senator John McCain is honored during the 2018 Iran Uprising Summit in Manhattan, New York, U.S., September 22, 2018. REUTERS/Amr Alfiky

March 20, 2019

By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The widow and daughter of John McCain on Wednesday criticized President Donald Trump and his online supporters for repeated attacks on the former U.S. senator, Republican presidential nominee and Vietnam War hero who was tortured during five and a half years spent as a prisoner of war.

Speaking on Wednesday to an employee at an Ohio factory that makes military tanks, Trump again hammered McCain.

“So I have to be honest, I’ve never liked him much,” Trump said. “I really probably never will. But there are certain reasons for it.”

Meghan McCain, the daughter of the late senator, spent the last few days defending her father and politely criticizing Trump. On Wednesday she said the president had reached “a new, bizarre low – attacking someone who is not here is a new low.”

She also said, “If I had told my dad … he would think it is so hilarious that our president was so jealous of him that he was dominating the news cycle in death.”

Barely six months after McCain’s death, Trump started the latest exchange between himself and the McCain clan on Sunday in a blast of Tweets, including one that attacked “‘last in his class’ (Annapolis) John McCain.”

A spokeswoman for Meghan McCain said she was not immediately available for further comment.

Cindy McCain, the senator’s widow, sarcastically urged her Twitter followers to “see how kind and loving a stranger can be” and shared with them an online message from someone who described John McCain as a “traitorous piece of warmongering shit and I’m glad he’s dead.”

On Tuesday, speaking to reporters in the Oval Office while sitting next the president of Brazil, Trump added: “I never was a fan of John McCain, and I never will be.”

The tweets and soundbites triggered a swirl of anti-McCain attacks and pro-McCain appeals on social media, like the one Cindy McCain shared, and cable TV discussion.

Without rebuking Trump, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said in a Tweet: “Today and every day I miss my good friend John McCain. It was a blessing to serve alongside a rare patriot and genuine American hero in the Senate.”

Republican Senator Johnny Isakson was more critical. In an interview with Georgia Public Broadcasting on Wednesday, he called Trump’s remarks about McCain “deplorable.”

The White House had no comment on Trump’s latest attacks.

Trump on Wednesday expressed concern about McCain’s role in the handling of a “dossier,” compiled before the 2016 U.S. presidential election by a former British spy and paid for by lawyers for the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

The dossier alleged Russian financial dealings with Trump and included salacious personal details that remain unconfirmed. After the election, a copy of the dossier was given to McCain, who gave it to the FBI, according to court documents that were made public last week.

Trump and his supporters have aggressively attacked the document ever since its contents became public.

“John McCain received a fake and phony dossier … He got it, and what did he do? He didn’t call me,” Trump said during his visit to the Ohio factory. “He turned it over to the FBI hoping to put me in jeopardy and that’s not the nicest thing to do.”

(Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh, Dan Grebler and Nick Carey)

Source: OANN

Brazil's Economy Minister Paulo Guedes speaks with journalists after meeting with Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro at the National Congress, in Brasilia
Brazil’s Economy Minister Paulo Guedes speaks with journalists after meeting with Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro at the National Congress, in Brasilia, Brazil March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

March 20, 2019

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s military would average just 1 billion reais ($265 million) in net savings per year over the next decade under an austerity proposal from the Economy Ministry unveiled on Wednesday, with higher pay consuming most pension savings.

The bill is the final piece of a social security overhaul proposed by President Jair Bolsonaro, a former army captain, aimed at saving over 1 trillion reais in a decade.

Lawmakers have said they could not debate his pension bill, first presented a month ago, without details of his plans for the armed forces — and even Bolsonaro’s allies quickly questioned whether the military personnel were giving up enough.

The Economy Ministry’s proposal pointed to net savings of 10.4 billion reais over 10 years. That would result from 97.3 billion reais in savings on military pensions, partially offset by 86.9 billion reais in extra public spending on military pay.

Brazil’s currency, the real, reduced gains sharply as details of the proposal were made public. The benchmark Bovespa stock index extended losses to 1.6 percent – its biggest loss in two weeks.

“The bulk of this bearishness is the military proposal. Not the savings number per se, but the fact that the final proposal also included compensation, which is to say more spending,” said one fund manager in Sao Paulo. “It sends a bad signal for other government workers that will also want similar pay raises.”

Lawmaker Waldir Soares de Oliveira, leader of Bolsonaro’s party in the lower house of Congress, told journalists he thought it was not the moment to discuss higher military pay.

Government officials and military leaders defending the bill at a news conference said the salary hikes were making up for years of below-average adjustments to military compensation.

(Reporting by Marcela Ayres and Ricardo Brito; Additional reporting and writing by Jamie McGeever; Editing by Brad Haynes and Leslie Adler)

Source: OANN

Israeli forces fire tear gas canisters at Palestinian protesters during clashes near the Jewish settlement of Beit El, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank
Israeli forces fire tear gas canisters at Palestinian protesters during clashes near the Jewish settlement of Beit El, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

March 20, 2019

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – A Palestinian was shot and killed in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday by what a Palestinian ambulance service said was Israeli army gunfire.

The Israeli military said it was checking the report.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said one of its crews treated a man with two bullet wounds at an Israeli military roadblock near the city of Bethlehem and that Israeli forces had shot him. It gave no details about the circumstances of the night-time shooting.

The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the man as a 26-year-old from Bethlehem and said another Palestinian had also been shot and critically wounded.

Tensions have been high in the West Bank since a Palestinian killed an Israeli soldier and a rabbi in a stabbing and shooting attack in the territory on Sunday.

Israeli forces on Tuesday killed the alleged assailant near the West Bank city of Ramallah after he opened fire at troops who had come to arrest him, Israel’s Shin Bet security service said.

In a separate incident on Tuesday, two other Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces during clashes near the West Bank city of Nablus.

Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war. Palestinians seek to establish a state there and in the Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed in 2014.

(Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Source: OANN

Israeli forces fire tear gas canisters at Palestinian protesters during clashes near the Jewish settlement of Beit El, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank
Israeli forces fire tear gas canisters at Palestinian protesters during clashes near the Jewish settlement of Beit El, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

March 20, 2019

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – A Palestinian was shot and killed in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday by what a Palestinian ambulance service said was Israeli army gunfire.

The Israeli military said it was checking the report.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said one of its crews treated a man with two bullet wounds at an Israeli military roadblock near the city of Bethlehem and that Israeli forces had shot him. It gave no details about the circumstances of the night-time shooting.

The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the man as a 26-year-old from Bethlehem and said another Palestinian had also been shot and critically wounded.

Tensions have been high in the West Bank since a Palestinian killed an Israeli soldier and a rabbi in a stabbing and shooting attack in the territory on Sunday.

Israeli forces on Tuesday killed the alleged assailant near the West Bank city of Ramallah after he opened fire at troops who had come to arrest him, Israel’s Shin Bet security service said.

In a separate incident on Tuesday, two other Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces during clashes near the West Bank city of Nablus.

Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war. Palestinians seek to establish a state there and in the Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed in 2014.

(Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Source: OANN

Late senator John McCain is honored during the 2018 Iran Uprising Summit in New York
Late senator John McCain is honored during the 2018 Iran Uprising Summit in Manhattan, New York, U.S., September 22, 2018. REUTERS/Amr Alfiky

March 20, 2019

By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The widow and daughter of John McCain – former U.S. senator, Republican presidential nominee and Vietnam War hero – on Wednesday criticized President Donald Trump and his online supporters for attacking McCain and his family.

Speaking on Wednesday to an employee at an Ohio factory that makes military tanks, Trump again hammered McCain. “So I have to be honest, I’ve never liked him much,” Trump said. “I really probably never will. But there are certain reasons for it.”

Meghan McCain, the daughter of the late senator, spent the last few days defending her father and politely criticizing Trump. On Wednesday she said the president had reached “a new, bizarre low – attacking someone who is not here is a new low.”

She also said, “If I had told my dad… he would think it is so hilarious that our president was so jealous of him that he was dominating the news cycle in death.”

Barely six months after McCain’s death, Trump started the latest exchange between himself and the McCain clan on Sunday in a blast of Tweets, including one that attacked “‘last in his class’ (Annapolis) John McCain.”

A spokeswoman for Meghan McCain said she was not immediately available for further comment.

Cindy McCain, the senator’s widow, sarcastically urged her Twitter followers to “see how kind and loving a stranger can be” and shared with them an online message from someone who described John McCain as a “traitorous piece of warmongering shit and I’m glad he’s dead.”

On Tuesday, speaking to reporters in the Oval Office while sitting next the president of Brazil, Trump added: “I never was a fan of John McCain, and I never will be.”

The tweets and soundbites triggered a swirl of anti-McCain attacks and pro-McCain appeals on social media, like the one Cindy McCain shared, and cable TV discussion.

Without rebuking Trump, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said in a Tweet: “Today and every day I miss my good friend John McCain. It was a blessing to serve alongside a rare patriot and genuine American hero in the Senate.”

The White House had no comment on Trump’s latest attacks.

(Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Dan Grebler)

Source: OANN

Evie Fordham | Politics and Health Care Reporter

  • Brazil’s new President Jair Bolsonaro sat down with American media after his meeting with President Donald Trump Tuesday.
  • He discussed his desire to “make Brazil great” and how he owes his life “to God” after being stabbed on the campaign trail. 
  • Brazil had been ruled by politicians from the left for years, and Bolsonaro is the country’s first conservative leader in its democratic era.

Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, wants to “make Brazil great” and says he owes his life “to God” after being stabbed on the campaign trail, according to his interview with American media following his meeting with President Donald Trump Tuesday.

The U.S. and Brazil have had a fraught relationship in the past, but Bolsonaro and Trump want to turn over a new leaf. They have not, for example, ruled out cooperating in military action in Venezuela, where socialist dictator Nicolas Maduro’s regime is in turmoil.

“To a large extent, I support what Trump does; he wants to make America great, I also want to make Brazil great. I also have concerns about the indiscriminate entrance of foreigners without any criteria. But beyond this, we are both Christians and we are God-fearing men,” Bolsonaro told Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) in an interview published Wednesday. (RELATED: Democrats Who Won’t Support Ousting Venezuela’s Socialist Dictator Pile On Brazil’s Democratically Elected Leader)

Bolsonaro’s election marked a turn in his home country as well. Brazil had been ruled by politicians from the left for years, and Bolsonaro is the country’s first conservative leader in its democratic era, reported CBN.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro presents U.S. President Donald Trump with a Brazil national soccer team jersey Number 10 for striker position at the White House March 19, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images)

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro presents U.S. President Donald Trump with a Brazil national soccer team jersey Number 10 for striker position at the White House March 19, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images)

“It is time to overcome old resistances and explore the very best potential between Brazil and the United States. After all, it is fair to say that today, Brazil does have a president who is not anti-American,” Bolsonaro said in the White House Rose Garden Tuesday, according to CBN.

Bolsonaro is only three months into his first term and has been nicknamed “Trump of the Tropics” for his brash rhetoric and desire to bring conservative reform to Brazil. Bolsonaro’s critics claim he uses “misogynistic and homophobic” rhetoric and wants to take away land rights from indigenous people.

The Brazilian politician also discussed the stabbing that almost cost him his life when he was a leading candidate in his country’s presidential election in 2018. The man who allegedly stabbed him was a former member of a socialist political party and sympathizer of radically left leaders.

“Doctors who attended to me said that for every 100 stabbings of the kind I endured, only one person survives. So, I am a survivor and owe my life to God. It was His will for me to live,” Bolsonaro told CBN.

Venezuelan opposition leader and self-declared iterim president Juan Guaido and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro speak during a press conference at Palace Itamaraty on February 28, 2019 in Brasília, Brazil. (Photo by Andressa Anholete/Getty Images)

Venezuelan opposition leader and self-declared iterim president Juan Guaido and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro speak during a press conference at Palace Itamaraty on February 28, 2019 in Brasília, Brazil. (Photo by Andressa Anholete/Getty Images)

Prompted by Bolsonaro’s White House visit, progressive U.S. lawmakers piled on criticism of the Brazilian leader after decrying U.S. action in Venezuela against Maduro.

Democratic Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar wrote on Twitter Tuesday that Bolsonaro has “praised torture,” “called refugees ‘scum of the world,’” “compared same-sex adoption to pedophilia,” “expressed admiration for Brazil’s military dictatorship” and “called for extrajudicial killings.”

“We must call out human rights abuses worldwide,” concluded Omar, who is on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

This was not the first time Democratic lawmakers expressed concerns about Bolsonaro. California Rep. Ro Khanna, former Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison (whom Omar succeeded) and 16 others wrote a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling Bolsonaro a “far-right extremist” before his election, reported Politico. They also claimed Bolsonaro said he would not accept defeat should he lose the election.

Brazil recognized Guaido over Maduro in January. Maduro compared Bolsonaro to former German dictator Adolf Hitler in a speech on Jan. 14 after he questioned the integrity of Venezuela’s elections.

Follow Evie on Twitter @eviefordham.

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FILE PHOTO: U.S. acting Secretary of Defense Shanahan pauses during remarks on the proposed U.S. Space Force at a think tank in Washington
FILE PHOTO: U.S. acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan pauses during remarks on the proposed U.S. Space Force at a think tank in Washington, U.S. March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

March 20, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Pentagon Inspector General said on Wednesday that it would investigate a complaint that acting Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, violated ethical rules by allegedly promoting Boeing while in office.

Last week Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group, filed a complaint with the Inspector General saying that Shanahan had appeared to violate the ethical rules by “promoting Boeing in the scope of his official duties at the Department of Defense (DOD) and disparaging the company’s competitors to his subordinates.”

“The Department of Defense Office of Inspector General has decided to investigate complaints we recently received that Acting Secretary Patrick Shanahan allegedly took actions to promote his former employer, Boeing, and disparage its competitors,” said Dwrena Allen, a spokeswoman for the Inspector General.

Prior to taking over as acting Pentagon chief earlier this year, he was the deputy defense secretary.

Shanahan joined Boeing in 1986 and spent more than three decades there, working on the 737 and 787 Dreamliner. He was also the president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems and worked on the Apache, Chinook and Osprey military aircraft.

“Acting Secretary Shanahan has at all times remained

committed to upholding his ethics agreement filed with the DoD,” said Lieutenant Colonel Joe Buccino, a Pentagon spokesman.

“This agreement ensures any matters pertaining to Boeing are handled by appropriate officials within the Pentagon to eliminate any perceived or actual conflict of interest issue with Boeing,” Buccino said.

During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last week, Shanahan said he would support an investigation by the Inspector General.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Dan Grebler)

Source: OANN

Chris White | Energy Reporter

The number of public record requests to the Environmental Protection Agency from major media outlets exploded shortly after President Donald Trump was elected, The Free Beacon reported Wednesday.

The New York Times made only 13 Freedom of Information Act requests during former President Barack Obama’s second term, the report notes, citing an analysis of FOIA requests dating back to 2013. The data sets show that The NYT quadrupled that number during the first year of Trump’s presidency, sending 59 FOIA requests to the EPA that year. The paper sent 100 over the course of Trump’s entire first term.

The NYT was not the only outlet that saw its FOIAs spiked. Reporters at The Washington Post, meanwhile, sent only one FOIA request to the agency during Obama’s entire second term, and have sent more than 40 FOIA requests to the EPA since 2016, when Trump was elected. (RELATED: Media Take Aim At Trump’s EPA For Doing What Obama Used To Do With FOIAs)

Then Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt walks during a picnic for military families celebrating Independence Day at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 4, 2018. Picture taken July 4, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Politico, which reported extensively on former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s ethical troubles, filed 15 requests during Obama’s second term and 198 since Trump took office. CNN’s numbers ballooned as well — the news channel sent 25 requests during Obama’s second term and 47 since.

Pruitt’s agency haggled with waves of EPA requests dating back to the previous administration. EPA FOIA officers had responded as of October 2017, to 70 percent of the 652 requests left open at the beginning of that year, according to an agency release. Some requests had been open since 2008.

EPA received 11,493 FOIA requests in fiscal year 2017, which is the most they’ve gotten since 2007 when outside groups filed 11,820 records requests. The agency got 995 more FOIAs in 2017 than in 2016.

Follow Chris White on Facebook and Twitter

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact [email protected].

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U.S. President Trump and Brazilian President Bolsonaro hold news conference at the White House in Washington
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro listens to U.S. President Donald Trump during a joint news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

March 20, 2019

By Lisandra Paraguassu and Anthony Boadle

WASHINGTON/BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro won glowing praise and conditional promises from U.S. President Donald Trump on his visit to the White House this week, yet Brazilian negotiators came away grumbling about their hosts driving a hard bargain.

Diplomats and other officials said Brazil got few immediate concessions in return for granting a unilateral visa waiver for U.S. visitors, a tariff-free quota for wheat imports and easier access for U.S. space launches from Brazil.

Bolsonaro, an outspoken Trump admirer who seemed eager to please at their first meeting, failed to win more room for Brazil’s sugar exports or overturn a U.S. ban on fresh Brazilian beef – both major objectives of the country’s farm sector.

“If this is the way forward, we might as well stay put,” said a Brazilian official directly involved in the negotiations, who requested anonymity to speak freely. “They asked for everything, but didn’t want to cede on anything.”

Reactions among Brazilians focused largely on the symbolism of the visit, with Bolsonaro supporters calling it a vindication for the iconoclastic leader and critics cringing to see him so cozy with Trump.

Yet the frustration of the Brazilian delegation reflects the deeper difficulty of overcoming trade barriers and agribusiness competition between the two countries, even as their presidents find common ground in their brash style and conservative views.

Bolsonaro celebrated his visit as the start of a new era of U.S.-Brazil friendship, playing up his admiration of Trump and their shared disdain for political correctness and “fake news,” as they often call unfavorable press coverage.

The presidents also found common ground in condemning Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and cooperating on public security and military development. Designating Brazil a “major non-NATO ally” will ease U.S. arms sales to the Brazilian armed forces, while a new technology safeguard agreement will help U.S. companies to conduct commercial space launches in Brazil.

However, in more transactional areas such as trade, the Brazilians’ goodwill offerings, such as an annual import quota of 750,000 tonnes of tariff-free wheat, were not met in kind.

“If this reciprocity does not occur, Bolsonaro’s preference for the U.S. will look naive in the future,” said Welber Barral, a former Brazilian foreign trade secretary.

Brazil’s new openness to wheat imports will mainly benefit U.S. exporters and was a slap in the face to neighboring Argentina, another major trade partner, Barral said.

He also warned that Brazil stands to face more setbacks on trade if it gives up the benefits of “developing country” status at the World Trade Organization (WTO) — the U.S. condition for supporting Brazil’s bid to join the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a policy forum for wealthier nations.

That conditional endorsement — concrete WTO concessions in return for symbolic OECD membership — left Brazilian Economy Minister Paulo Guedes visibly annoyed after his meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

“That’s no exchange. He’s making that demand,” he told journalists.

Addressing an audience at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Monday, Guedes also gave a hint of the sticking points that stood in the way of broader trade agreements.

“You want to sell pork? Okay, buy my beef. You want to sell ethanol? Buy my sugar. Beef for pork, ethanol for sugar, wheat for auto parts. They’re little things,” he said.

None of the exchanges he suggested were formalized in talks.

Guedes reminded the audience that China, Brazil’s top trading partner, would be ready to pick up the slack if the United States did not engage.

“They are moving in, trying to invest,” Guedes warned.

(Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu and Anthony Boadle, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

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FILE PHOTO: A Citibank sign on bank branch in midtown Manhattan in New York
FILE PHOTO: A Citibank sign on a bank branch in midtown Manhattan, New York, November 17, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Segar

March 20, 2019

By Mayela Armas and Corina Pons

CARACAS (Reuters) – Citigroup Inc plans to sell several tons of gold placed as collateral by Venezuela’s central bank on a $1.6 billion loan after the deadline for repurchasing them expired this month, sources said, a setback for President Nicolas Maduro’s efforts to hold onto the country’s fast-shrinking reserves.

Maduro’s government has since 2014 used financial operations known as gold swaps to use its international reserves to gain access to cash after a slump in oil revenues left it struggling to obtain hard currency.

In the past two years, however, it has struggled to recover its collateral.

Under the terms of the 2015 deal with Citigroup’s Citibank, Venezuela was due to repay $1.1 billion of the loan on March 11, according to four sources familiar with the situation. The remainder of the loan comes due next year.

Citibank plans to sell the gold held as a guarantee – which has a market value of roughly $1.358 billion – to recover the first tranche of the loan and will deposit the excess of roughly $258 million in a bank account in New York, two of the sources said.

The ability of Maduro’s government to repay the loans have been complicated by the South American country’s dire economic situation as well as financial sanctions imposed by the United States and some European nations.

Most Western nations say that Maduro’s re-election to a six-year term last year was marred by fraud and have recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate president.

Guaido invoked Venezuela’s constitution to announce an interim presidency in January. However, Maduro retains control over state institutions in Venezuela and has the support of the powerful military. He has branded Guaido a U.S. puppet.

With Washington’s support, Guaido’s team has taken control of state oil company PDVSA’s U.S. refining subsidiary but its attempt to negotiate a 120-day extension of the repurchase deadline for the collateral was unsuccessful, the sources said.

“Citibank was told that there was a force majeure event in Venezuela, so the grace period was necessary, but they did not grant it,” said one of the sources, who belongs to Guaido’s team.

A Venezuelan government source familiar with the matter confirmed that the country’s Central Bank did not transfer the money to Citibank this month.

Citigroup declined to comment. The Venezuelan Central Bank did not immediately respond to a request for information.

In a report presented to the U.S. securities regulator in February, Citibank said Venezuela’s Central Bank had agreed four years ago to buy back in March 2019 a “significant volume of gold” as part of a contract signed to obtain some $1.6 billion. Citibank said that, following the transaction, it owned the gold.

Guaido is attempting to freeze bank accounts and gold owned by Venezuela abroad, much of which remains in the Bank of England. At the end of 2018, the Central Bank paid investment bank Deutsche Bank AG about $700 million to recover ownership of a portion of gold used as collateral for a loan.

However, the bullion remained in the custody of the Bank of England, despite the Central Bank’s request to repatriate it. In light of that transaction, the sources said there was no incentive for the Central Bank to repay Citibank. RENEGOTIATE DEBT

Guaido’s team also began preparing this month for a possible debt restructuring in a bid to ease payments and stop any hostile action by creditors, said two sources who took part in the discussion.

In meetings between members of Guaido’s team with legal advisors in the United States, there were discussions of starting renegotiations soon not only with Venezuelan bondholders, but also with the Chinese and Russian governments and companies affected by a wave of nationalizations, said the sources.

“We want to address the debt in a comprehensive way. We calculate that it totals $200 billion,” said one of the sources.

The Citgo refinery unit, Venezuela’s main asset abroad, is under scrutiny because it serves as a guarantee for the issuance of a PDVSA bond and a loan from Russian oil company Rosneft.

Guaido’s advisers are also evaluating the payment in the coming weeks of around $72 million in interest coming due on PDVSA’s 2020 bonds to avoid any action by creditors against Citgo.

(Reporting by Corina Pons and Mayela Armas; Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Source: OANN

Evie Fordham | Politics and Health Care Reporter

  • Progressive lawmakers who decried the U.S. decision to remove recognition from Venezuela’s socialist dictator piled on the criticism of Brazil’s President Jair Bolsanaro Wednesday.
  • Bolsonaro and President Donald Trump met in Washington, D.C., Tuesday.
  • The progressives’ position on Venezuela is very different from that of more seasoned Democratic lawmakers including Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, who agrees with the Trump administration on the issue.

Progressive lawmakers who decried the U.S. decision to recognize the rival of Venezuela’s socialist dictator Nicolas Maduro piled on the criticism of Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro Wednesday after he met with President Donald Trump Tuesday.

Democratic Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar wrote on Twitter Tuesday that Bolsonaro has “praised torture,” “called refugees ‘scum of the world,’” “compared same-sex adoption to pedophilia,” “expressed admiration for Brazil’s military dictatorship” and “called for extrajudicial killings.”

“We must call out human rights abuses worldwide,” concluded Omar, who is on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. (RELATED: Woman Who Climbed Statue Of Liberty To Protest Trump Sentenced To 5 Years Probation)

Democratic California Rep. Ro Khanna mirrored Omar’s stance on Twitter Wednesday.

US President Donald Trump (R) and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (L) walk down the Colonnade before a press conference at the Rose Garden of the White House March 19, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool via Getty Images)

US President Donald Trump (R) and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (L) walk down the Colonnade before a press conference at the Rose Garden of the White House March 19, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool via Getty Images)

“As Bolsonaro tours the CIA and meets Trump at the White House, we must speak out against his human rights abuses and attacks on marginalized Brazilians. Our democratic principles cannot be sidelined,” Khanna wrote along with a link to a story about the leaders’ meeting from The Washington Post.

Omar, Khanna and Democratic Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard broke with their party to criticize Trump for his decision to oppose Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro in January. The people of Venezuela have faced extreme economic hardship and crackdowns on their freedom under Maduro, who succeeded infamous socialist dictator Hugo Chavez.

Omar has called the actions of the Trump administration a “US backed coup.” She has also compared the U.S. putting pressure on Maduro to a foreign country deciding to recognize Trump’s 2016 election rival Hillary Clinton as the nation’s leader instead.

“Now if a foreign country just said, ‘Well, we think because Hillary got lots of votes, we’re just going to acknowledge Hillary as the leader of the United States.’ We would have a problem with that,” she said Feb. 27.

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro (L) and Venezuelan opposition leader and self-declared acting president Juan Guaido shake hands during a joint press conference after holding a meeting at Planalto palace in Brasilia on February 28, 2019. (SERGIO LIMA/AFP/Getty Images)

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro (L) and Venezuelan opposition leader and self-declared acting president Juan Guaido shake hands during a joint press conference after holding a meeting at Planalto palace in Brasilia on February 28, 2019. (SERGIO LIMA/AFP/Getty Images)

Omar, Khanna and Gabbard’s position is very different from that of more seasoned Democratic lawmakers, including Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, a former member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Durbin sided with Trump on the foreign policy issue. He said in a Jan. 23 statement:

Last year I visited Venezuela and found a country on the verge of political, economic, and humanitarian collapse. I told then-President Maduro that if he went ahead with a sham election under absurdly rigged conditions he would find his regime even further isolated and in question. Tragically that is exactly what has happened and why President Trump, Secretary General of the Organization of American States Almagro, and other nations in the region have appropriately recognized National Assembly President Juan Guaidó as the constitutionally appropriate leader of Venezuela.

Bolsonaro gave an exclusive interview to the Christian Broadcasting Network while in the U.S.

“To a large extent, I support what Trump does; He wants to make America great, I also want to make Brazil great. I also have concerns about the indiscriminate entrance of foreigners without any criteria. But beyond this, we are both Christians and we are God-fearing men,” he told CBN in a story posted Wednesday.

Bolsonaro is only three months into his first term and has been nicknamed “Trump of the Tropics” for his brash rhetoric and desire to bring conservative reform to Brazil. Bolsonaro’s critics say he used “misogynistic and homophobic” rhetoric and took away land rights from indigenous people.

Brazil recognized Guaido over Maduro in January. Maduro compared Bolsonaro to former German dictator Adolf Hitler in a speech on Jan. 14 after he questioned the integrity of Venezuela’s elections.

Follow Evie on Twitter @eviefordham.

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Source: The Daily Caller

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Trump addresses members of U.S. military during refueling stop in Anchorage, Alaska
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump introduces U.S. Army Bronze Star recipient Sgt. Sean Rogers after calling him onstage while addressing members of the military during a refueling stop at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska, U.S., February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

March 20, 2019

By Mike Stone

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Defense is proposing to pay for President Donald Trump’s much-debated border wall by shifting funds away from projects that include $1.2 billion for schools, childcare centers and other facilities for military children, according to a list it has provided to lawmakers.

The Pentagon gave Congress a list on Monday that included $12.8 billion of construction projects for which it said funds could be redirected.

Around 10 percent of the list relates to educational establishments and includes school buildings for the children of service members in places like Germany, Japan, Kentucky and Puerto Rico.

The move comes as a surprise given the Trump administration’s oft-touted support for the sacrifices made by military families and suggests the White House’s desire to build a wall on the border with Mexico outstrips nearly all other issues.

However, of the $1.2 billion in projects related to education, approximately $800 million worth are far in the future, and those funds could readily be used for wall construction and replaced later.

The Pentagon told Congress that just because a project was listed, it “does not mean that the project will, in fact, be used” as a funding source to build sections of the border wall.

Trump earlier in March asked for $8.6 billion in his 2020 budget request to help pay for his promised wall on the U.S-Mexico border to combat illegal immigration and drug trafficking. It drew swift criticism from Democrats.

He declared a national emergency in a bid to fund the wall without congressional approval, a move that allows his administration to use money from the military construction budget, if needed.

In a tense Congressional hearing last week, Democratic senators demanded that they be provided a list of military funds that could be utilized to fund wall construction.

Military officials have vowed that they would not use any funds from military housing. A recent Reuters investigation https://reut.rs/2t1Y2UA found thousands of U.S. military families were subjected to serious health and safety hazards in on-base housing, prompting moves from lawmakers to improve landlord controls.

But elementary and middle schools on bases around the world serving military families are at risk of suffering from the funding diversion, as well as a new engineering building and parking garage at West Point, the Army’s military academy in New York state.

Joint Base Andrews, where the president’s Air Force jet is based, was slated to receive $13 million for a “Child Development Center,” but funding for that project is on the list.

The base currently has three child development centers serving the 12,000 to 14,000 active and reserve military stationed there.

(Reporting by Mike Stone; Editing by Chris Sanders and Rosalba O’Brien)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Trump addresses members of U.S. military during refueling stop in Anchorage, Alaska
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump introduces U.S. Army Bronze Star recipient Sgt. Sean Rogers after calling him onstage while addressing members of the military during a refueling stop at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska, U.S., February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

March 20, 2019

By Mike Stone

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Defense is proposing to pay for President Donald Trump’s much-debated border wall by shifting funds away from projects that include $1.2 billion for schools, childcare centers and other facilities for military children, according to a list it has provided to lawmakers.

The Pentagon gave Congress a list on Monday that included $12.8 billion of construction projects for which it said funds could be redirected.

Around 10 percent of the list relates to educational establishments and includes school buildings for the children of service members in places like Germany, Japan, Kentucky and Puerto Rico.

The move comes as a surprise given the Trump administration’s oft-touted support for the sacrifices made by military families and suggests the White House’s desire to build a wall on the border with Mexico outstrips nearly all other issues.

However, of the $1.2 billion in projects related to education, approximately $800 million worth are far in the future, and those funds could readily be used for wall construction and replaced later.

The Pentagon told Congress that just because a project was listed, it “does not mean that the project will, in fact, be used” as a funding source to build sections of the border wall.

Trump earlier in March asked for $8.6 billion in his 2020 budget request to help pay for his promised wall on the U.S-Mexico border to combat illegal immigration and drug trafficking. It drew swift criticism from Democrats.

He declared a national emergency in a bid to fund the wall without congressional approval, a move that allows his administration to use money from the military construction budget, if needed.

In a tense Congressional hearing last week, Democratic senators demanded that they be provided a list of military funds that could be utilized to fund wall construction.

Military officials have vowed that they would not use any funds from military housing. A recent Reuters investigation https://reut.rs/2t1Y2UA found thousands of U.S. military families were subjected to serious health and safety hazards in on-base housing, prompting moves from lawmakers to improve landlord controls.

But elementary and middle schools on bases around the world serving military families are at risk of suffering from the funding diversion, as well as a new engineering building and parking garage at West Point, the Army’s military academy in New York state.

Joint Base Andrews, where the president’s Air Force jet is based, was slated to receive $13 million for a “Child Development Center,” but funding for that project is on the list.

The base currently has three child development centers serving the 12,000 to 14,000 active and reserve military stationed there.

(Reporting by Mike Stone; Editing by Chris Sanders and Rosalba O’Brien)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Smoke rises from the last besieged neighborhood in the village of Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province
FILE PHOTO: Smoke rises from the last besieged neighborhood in the village of Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province, Syria, March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

March 20, 2019

PARIS (Reuters) – France, one of the main contributors to the fight against Islamic State in the Middle East, has received no answers to questions about U.S. calls for it and others to help secure northeastern Syria, its foreign minister said on Wednesday.

Defence Minister Florence Parly was in Washington on Monday aiming to get details from U.S. officials over an idea to set up and observe a safe zone being negotiated for northeastern Syria.

That followed U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision in December to withdraw the bulk of his 2,000 troops in Syria after the defeat of Islamic State (IS) militants.

“Mrs Parly went to the United States to start talking to the Americans and try to get answers to various questions: If by chance the American military presence would be maintained? What would be the contours of its presence? What would be the mission? What would be the capabilities?” Le Drian said.

“We do not have these answers yet…It is on the basis of information that we don’t have yet that President (Macron) will determine the possibility of a French contribution.”

Since Trump made his announcement, advisers have convinced the U.S. president to leave about 400 U.S. troops, split between two different regions of Syria.

It wants about 200 U.S. troops to join what Washington hopes will be a total commitment of about 800 to 1,500 troops from European allies, which are to set up and observe a safe zone being negotiated for northeastern Syria.

However, the idea has met scepticism from Washington’s European allies, and foremost from France, which has 1,200 troops primarily based in providing air strikes, artillery support and training in Iraq. It also has an unspecified number of special forces in Syria.

Le Drian said Islamic State’s last Syrian pocket in Baghouz would fall imminently, but that militants were now going underground and fleeing to other countries, including Afghanistan.

“We can’t envisage abandoning those that were our best allies fighting Islamic State on the ground,” Le Drian said, referring to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

(Reporting by John Irish and Sophie Louet, Editing by William Maclean)

Source: OANN

Shoshana Bryen | Senior Director, Jewish Policy Center

There is a difference between an “honest broker” and a “neutral arbiter.” In advance of the rollout of its Middle East peace plan, the Trump administration has taken a series of steps to ensure its role as the honest broker. The U.S. is not “neutral” between our ally, Israel, and the Palestinians who seek to replace it. But it won’t be easy to change presumptions that are deeply embedded in the process.

The State Department’s annual survey of human rights released this month referred to the Golan Heights simply as “Israeli-controlled territory,” ending its tradition of referring to the West Bank and Gaza Strip as “occupied territory.”

To the community of Washington professionals wedded to the “peace process,” that was an outrage! “Poof,” said one prominent commentator. “With a word change, Israel no longer occupies territory, they now control it. The strategic objective of this administration is to change U.S. policy on refugees; Jerusalem; territory. And they’re doing it.”

But the State Department is correct. The West Bank and Gaza are the remains of the British Mandate — in legal limbo since the Jordanians occupied it in 1948. The Golan Heights were captured after a Syrian attack in 1967 and a second Syrian attack in 1973.

For more than 25 years, the on-again-off-again “peace process” between Israel and the Palestinians has been predicated on unlikely theories about “peace” and erroneous assumptions about both Palestinians, Israelis, and American foreign policy.

First, the process assumed Israel’s security problems are related to the non-state status of Palestinians — hence the name “Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”  And the proposed remedy was “the two-state solution,” an independent state for the Palestinians. More precisely, however, it is the “Arab-Israeli conflict” or the “Arab wars against Israel.”  Arab states went to war in 1948 to erase Israel; they failed.

Second, the process assumed that security for Israel would emerge from “peace.” A situation of peace, however, emerges when countries are secure. The 1967 UN Security Council Resolution 242 got it right, demanding that the Arab states give Israel “secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.”

Third, the process presumed that multiple generations of people held in miserable pens in Arab countries meet the world’s definition of “refugees.” They do not. The Palestinian demand though is that generations of progeny must be able to return to places their grandparents and great-grandparents claim to have come from.

Fourth, and most incredible, the “two-state solution” presumed the Palestinians would simply give up deeply held positions on three crucial points — land/borders, refugees, and Jerusalem — as a gift to what they believe are “interlopers” in “their” country. The Galilee, Jaffa, Haifa are all “Palestine” on PA maps. As is Jerusalem. The idea that they would agree that those can be sovereign Israeli territory has no basis in their negotiating history.

For years, the United States was complicit and encouraged these misleading assumptions, treating the Palestinians as if they were actually a country. The PA office in Washington was considered an embassy; the U.S. office in Jerusalem — a consulate, really, from the time that Jordan was occupying Jerusalem and our Embassy was in Amman — served as an embassy to the Palestinian Authority.  

Most damning, the process had assumed that the United States was a neutral arbiter between two equally worthy parties: Israel and the Palestinians. Neutral between Israel — a democratic, diverse, free-market, egalitarian, self-sufficient partner in the military, scientific, and high-tech fields — and the Palestinian Authority — an arm of the PLO, a terrorist, irredentist, kleptocratic, failed government reliant on international handouts that it uses to pay “salaries” to terrorists who kill Jews.

The U.S. should never have allowed itself to be considered neutral — it is an affront to American ideals and principles.

The Trump administration is not neutral.

The PA Washington office is closed and the Jerusalem consulate has been folded into the new American Embassy in Jerusalem. And Jerusalem is recognized as the capital of the State of Israel.

The administration has declined to “pay for slay,” reducing aid to the PA by the amount figured to go to terrorists’ “salaries.” Money for UNRWA, overseer of Palestinian refugee camps, has also been reduced. And the president and members of his administration have been outspoken about the American commitment to the security of Israel.

Precise language coupled with specific actions to differentiate the State of Israel from the not-a-state Palestinian Authority sets the stage for the presentation of the administration’s “peace plan” next month. Which, if it proceeds from these new assumptions, will be an important statement about the new realities in the region.

Shoshana Bryen is senior director of The Jewish Policy Center in Washington, D.C. and the editor of inFOCUS Quarterly.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

Source: The Daily Caller

The United States must have a policy of "sustained presence" in order to confront Islamic extremism abroad, former CIA director and retired Gen. David Petraeus told CBS News and Intelligence Matters on Wednesday.

"This is a generational struggle at the least," said Petraeus, who led coalition forces in Iraq from 2007 to 2008 and in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2011. "I understand fully why presidents want to end wars rather than to start them, why they want to get out of wars and do nation-building at home. But we do have to stay with this. We need a sustained presence, a sustained commitment."

Petraeus also stressed four additional major points needed to create an effective strategic approach to combatting Islamic extremism, some of which are in marked contrast to recent policy decisions made by the Trump administration, which has started a troop withdrawal process from Syria and Afghanistan that some have criticized as premature.  

Petraues emphasized that the U.S. must do something to make sure there are not ungoverned spaces in the Muslim world that will be exploited by Islamist extremists," and that the American military msut take the lead in these efforts, because "Our capabilities are so vastly greater than all of our allies put together."

The general also said that a “comprehensive approach” is needed, and not just fighting terrorists, in order to counter extremism, which only stresses the importance of a sustained commitment.

Petraeus said the U.S. had already "figured out" from its experiences in Iraq and Syria, how to lessen its own long-term costs while enabling host countries step up to take on most of the burden of rebuilding and fighting on the front lines.

Source: NewsMax

The United States must have a policy of "sustained presence" in order to confront Islamic extremism abroad, former CIA director and retired Gen. David Petraeus told CBS News and Intelligence Matters on Wednesday.

"This is a generational struggle at the least," said Petraeus, who led coalition forces in Iraq from 2007 to 2008 and in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2011. "I understand fully why presidents want to end wars rather than to start them, why they want to get out of wars and do nation-building at home. But we do have to stay with this. We need a sustained presence, a sustained commitment."

Petraeus also stressed four additional major points needed to create an effective strategic approach to combatting Islamic extremism, some of which are in marked contrast to recent policy decisions made by the Trump administration, which has started a troop withdrawal process from Syria and Afghanistan that some have criticized as premature.  

Petraues emphasized that the U.S. must do something to make sure there are not ungoverned spaces in the Muslim world that will be exploited by Islamist extremists," and that the American military msut take the lead in these efforts, because "Our capabilities are so vastly greater than all of our allies put together."

The general also said that a “comprehensive approach” is needed, and not just fighting terrorists, in order to counter extremism, which only stresses the importance of a sustained commitment.

Petraeus said the U.S. had already "figured out" from its experiences in Iraq and Syria, how to lessen its own long-term costs while enabling host countries step up to take on most of the burden of rebuilding and fighting on the front lines.

Source: NewsMax

David Hookstead | Reporter

“SEAL Team” is finally back.

When we flip on our TVs tonight, the hit military show will return to CBS for a new episode in the second season.

The plot of the new episode, according to the YouTube description of the preview, is: “Bravo Team works with the Congolese Army on a covert mission to capture the head of a rebel militia group. Also, Jason argues with Emma about college, and Sonny and Davis make a big decision about their future.”

This day has been a long time coming, and I can’t wait. It feels like it’s been so long since we had a new episode. Of course, it was only two months ago, but I’m sure you all get my point.

You sometimes just know when a day is going to be a good one, and that’s exactly what we’re getting with a new episode to brighten up our Wednesday. (RELATED: ‘SEAL Team‘ Is Excellent In New Episode ‘Things Not Seen’)

If you’re not watching what Bravo Team is up to, then you absolutely need to give “SEAL Team” a chance. It’s not just an action show, although there is plenty of action.

It puts a ton of focus on what our brave warriors do in the meantime of their private lives. It shows the immense toll combat can have on the family unit and the mind.

The military drama is a lot more than just shooting people and blowing stuff up.

Tune in tonight at 10 p.m. EST on CBS. Make sure you’ve got the time right because it’s new. I wouldn’t want any of you to miss it because it should be great to have the team back in action.

Source: The Daily Caller

The Department of Defense released guidelines Wednesday concerning transgender service members, which indicate that people require a waiver to serve if they have gender dysphoria.

The guidelines come out in response to President Donald Trump’s ban on most transgender troops last March. After numerous challenges, a federal court judge ruled last week that the administration can continue with the partial ban. (RELATED: Pentagon To Activate Transgender Military Ban After Judge Removes Block)

The ban places an increased focus on the transgender community as more people speak out for and against the new policy. As more voices from the transgender community are heard, their particular terminology is entering public consciousness. (RELATED: Alyssa Milano Says She’s ‘A Gay Man’ In Weird Tweet, Doubles-Down On Critics)

Here are some terms and examples you may hear as this story unfolds.

AMAB: Acronym for “Assigned Male At Birth.”

“I was AMAB, but I am now a transwoman.”

AFAB: Acronym for “Assigned Female At Birth.”

“I was AFAB, but I am now a transman.”

Binary: Classification of two distinct genders that people are assigned at birth based on biological sex; one gender is masculine and one is feminine.

“Break the binary!”

Binder: Sometimes worn by transgender people, it constricts the breasts to portray a more flat-chested appearance.

Boi: A female-bodied person who intentionally or non-intentionally expresses and presents culturally/stereotypically masculine characteristics, particularly boyish. Also, one who enjoys being perceived or identifies themselves as a “boy” rather than a “man.”

Boy mode: The time spent presenting as male by a transgender individual. The opposite is girl mode.

“I’m in boy/girl mode right now.”

Cis: Abbreviation of “cisgender,” term used for people whose gender identity matches with what they were assigned at birth.

Cishet: A person who is both cisgender and heterosexual.

Clocked: Also known as “getting read.” To be detected as a person who cross-dresses or is transexual.

“I want to go out, but I’m afraid of being clocked.”

Copenhagen CaponSlang for a transexual person.

Deadname: The birth name of somebody who has changed their name. Most commonly attributed to transexual people.

Down Low: Also referred to as “D/L,” meaning “in the closet,” or not publicly a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

“In high school, some guys were down low.”

Drab: A term used by cross genders to indicate wearing the clothes traditionally associated with your birth sex. A male to female crossdresser may say she is “in drab” if the crossdresser was wearing a suit.

Drag King: A person who performs masculinity theatrically. (RELATED: Nancy Pelosi Claims Drag Queens Can Help Politicians Be More Authentic)

En Femme: A term used by male-to-female crossdressers to indicate being cross-dressed and not in male traditional clothes.

Femme: Feminine identified person of any gender/sex.

Femme-n’-m’s: A slang term for estrogen pills. Male-to-female transwomen use estrogen pills to induce changes in their body during Estrogen Hormone Therapy.

FFS: Stands for “Facial Feminization Surgery.” The procedure alters typically male features closer to female features.

FTM, F2M: Short for “Female-To-Male.”

“I am a F2M trans…”

Full-Time: Living in the social role of the sex opposite that assigned at birth. “Living full-time.”

“I’m living full-time as a MTF transgender.”

Gender Dysphoria: The distress felt by transexuals caused when a person’s sex at birth does not align with which they identify.

Gender Euphoria: The feeling a transgender person gets when he/she/they are able to present as the gender they identify with and people treat them accordingly.

GG, GW: Stands for “Genetic Girl” or “Genetic Woman,” a female born female.

Hermie: An intersex person, short for hermaphrodite.

Hir: A gender-neutral pronoun, used in place of him/her. Pronounced “here.”

In The Closet: Refers to a homosexual, bisexual, transperson or intersex person who will not or cannot disclose their sex.

Ladyboy: In Thailand and the Philippines, a commonly used slang term for a transexual prostitute. Also known as “kathoeys.”

MTF, M2F: Short for “Male-To-Female.”

“I’m a M2F trans…”

Non-op: Also known as non-operative, individuals who may not desire to attain gender reassignment surgery, and may or may not take hormone therapy.

Passing: A term used to describe successfully being perceived as a member of your preferred gender regardless of birth sex. Some prefer “being read as a man” or “being read as a woman.”

Pre-op: Also known as pre-operative, individuals who have not received gender reassignment surgery but desire so and are seeking it as an option.

Stealth: A transitioned transexual may choose not to reveal his or her transexual status. Referred to as “going stealth” or “being stealth.” (RELATED: Transgender Athletes Place First And Second In Track Championships)

TERF: “Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist.” The group of feminists that claim trans women are not really “women.”

Transgay: A transexual man who is attracted to men.

Transgeekery: An impressive technical task done by someone who is transgender and a geek.

Transgender Charlie: A transgender bathroom. (RELATED: Transgender Student Gets $800,000 After Bathroom Lawsuit)

Transgenderific: A derogatory term for one who gloats about being transgender.

Transtrender: A person who calls themselves a transgender person because they think it makes them cool or special.

“No, I am not a transtrender.”

Truscum: People who think gender dysphoria is an essential component of being transexual and anyone who does not experience it is fake. Pronounced “true scum.”

Tucute: Someone, who may or may not be transgender themselves, who believes that gender dysphoria is not necessary to be transgender. The term was formed on Tumblr.

Two-Spirit: A gender identity in which someone is “two-spirited” or their body has both a masculine and feminine spirit. The idea originated with Native Americans.

Ze: A gender-neutral pronoun used in place of she/he. Pronounced “zee.”

You can click here for more information on these terms.

Source: The Daily Caller

Finance Minister Olaf Scholz addresses a news conference to present the budget plans for 2019 and the upcoming years in Berlin
Finance Minister Olaf Scholz addresses a news conference to present the budget plans for 2019 and the upcoming years in Berlin, Germany March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

March 20, 2019

BERLIN (Reuters) – The German cabinet on Wednesday passed a draft budget for 2020 that calls for a 1.7 percent spending hike and relies on ministries to cut costs to avoid new debt in light of an economic slowdown, a government official said on Wednesday.

Finance Minister Olaf Scholz’s fiscal room for maneuver is getting tighter because tax revenues are likely to come in lower than expected this year as exporters are hit by weaker foreign demand, trade disputes and Brexit uncertainty.

A government official said that the cabinet approved Scholz’s draft budget plan for 2020 and the mid-term financial planning until 2023.

The draft foresees spending of 362.6 billion euros, but sources have said ministries will have to identify total spending cuts of 625 million euros each year, with program delays and other measures to contribute additional savings.

The draft budget foresees a further increase in military spending in 2020 but does not provide a plan for how to reach the NATO target of spending 2 percent of economic output on defense in the years beyond.

Military spending would rise by 2.1 billion euros over a previous plan for 2020, boosting the share of defense spending to 1.37 percent of gross domestic product from 1.25 percent in 2018 and 1.3 percent this year.

The military budget is slated to rise to 45.1 billion euros in 2020 from planned spending of 43.2 billion this year. But the share of military spending would drop back to 1.25 percent in 2023, with any further spending increases to be negotiated year by year, sources have said.

(Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Madeline Chambers)

Source: OANN

Supporters of Pheu Thai Party attend an election campaign in Ubon Ratchathani Province
FILE PHOTO: Supporters of Pheu Thai Party attend an election campaign in Ubon Ratchathani Province, Thailand, Februray 18, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

March 20, 2019

By Panu Wongcha-um and Panarat Thepgumpanat

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Nearly five years after Thailand’s 2014 military coup, the populist movement that the army has overthrown twice in a decade is contesting an election on Sunday that its leaders say is rigged against it.

Yet, the Pheu Thai party linked to ousted ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, is hoping it can beat the system, just as the former telecommunication tycoon’s loyalists have won every general election since 2001.

This time, Pheu Thai has shifted strategy by dividing its forces to capture new votes and to seek a “democratic front” with other parties to overcome junta-written electoral rules that give a huge advantage to the party seeking to retain junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha as prime minister.

Sunday’s election has 81 parties competing, but the race has shaped up as one between Pheu Thai and “democracy front” allies versus the pro-army Palang Pracharat party that nominated Prayuth as prime minister.

Polls indicate that Pheu Thai will again be the top vote-winner, and it hopes with its allies to make up the largest bloc in the 500-seat House of Representatives.

But that may not matter, because the new constitution written by the junta allows parliament’s upper house, the 250-seat Senate, to vote with the lower house to choose the prime minister – and the Senate is entirely appointment by the junta.

That means pro-junta parties need to win only 126 lower house seats on Sunday to choose the next government, while Pheu Thai and allies, who can’t count on any support in the Senate, need 376 – three-quarters of the total up for grabs.

Despite the disadvantages, Sudarat Keyuraphan, Pheu Thai’s main prime ministerial candidate, said a democratic front could keep the military from controlling the next government.

“I still believe in the heart of the people and we have seen election upsets in many places around the world,” Sudarat told Reuters in an interview.

“Now, they have created a new structure that enables them to hold on to power in a semi-democratic structure,” she said of the military. “So we have to tell people about this and to put an end to this once and for all.”

‘GET RID OF THAKSIN’

However, the complex rules governing the election make it all but impossible for pro-Thaksin parties to form a government on their own as they have in previous elections.

Since he burst onto the political scene in 2001, Thaksin has dominated Thai politics, inspiring devotion among his mostly rural supporters for his pro-poor policies and revulsion from mostly middle-class and establishment opponents who decry him as a corrupt demagogue.

The rivalry has brought intermittent violent protests over almost 15 years. Twice, the military has stepped in, the first time in 2006 to oust Thaksin after he won a second term and again in 2014 to topple a government that had been led by his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra.

Thaksin now lives in self-imposed exile to escape a 2008 corruption sentence. He is officially banned from politics but has been hosting a weekly podcast since January discussing global affairs and politics.

His son, Panthongtae Shinawatra, 38, has made cameo appearances at Pheu Thai rallies, bringing loud cheers in party strongholds in the north and northeast.

Worry that a pro-Thaksin party might yet again win the election was one reason why the post-coup constitution made changes giving the junta a strong say in who will be prime minister, said Titipol Phakdeewanich, dean of the faculty of political science at Ubon Ratchathani University.

“The establishment have had a strong determination to get rid of Thaksin once and for all,” Titipol told Reuters.

PRO-DEMOCRACY FRONT

While the rewritten electoral rules give junta leader Prayuth’s party an advantage in choosing the next government, they are by no means a guarantee.

In recent weeks, talk of a “democracy front” has gained ground, with speculation different parties in the House of Representatives might muster the 376 votes needed to choose the prime minister.

That strategy took a hit when Thai Raksa Chart, a key pro-Thaksin ally of Pheu Thai, was disqualified from the election this month.

The constitutional court ruled that the party had broken the electoral law by nominating the sister of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, as its prime ministerial candidate, crossing the traditional boundary between monarchy and politics.

Still, Pheu Thai has other allies – including Pheu Chart party and Pheu Tham – while politicians from the dissolved Thai Raksa Chart campaign for the democratic front.

Other parties like the youth-oriented Future Forward Party, while not seen as “pro-Thaksin”, could join forces to keep the military out of politics.

The leader of another main party, the Democrats, has also said he won’t support keeping junta leader Prayuth as prime minister, though it is unclear if the staunchly anti-Thaksin Democrats would join any front with Thaksin loyalists.

Even if they unite, it’s unclear whether anti-junta parties can muster enough votes, but Pheu Thai’s Sudarat said Prayuth’s declaration as a prime ministerial candidate has had a galvanizing effect.

“For 10 years the military has been acting as a referee,” she said.

“But now they have reveal themselves and have become a player so this could lead to a new end game … now it is up to the people.”

(Editing by Kay Johnson, Robert Birsel)

Source: OANN

Students use their mobile phones during a protest calling on President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to quit, in Algiers
Students use their mobile phones during a protest calling on President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to quit, in Algiers, Algeria March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

March 20, 2019

By Lamine Chikhi and Hamid Ould Ahmed

ALGIERS (Reuters) – An influential Algerian party that was a long-time supporter of Abdelaziz Bouteflika has criticized the ailing president for seeking to stay in power, another setback for the ruling elite in the face of mass demonstrations.

The National Rally for Democracy (RND), a member of the ruling coalition, has joined ruling party officials, unions and business tycoons who have abandoned Bouteflika in recent days, after nearly a month of street demonstrations protests.

“The candidacy of president Abdelaziz Bouteflika for a new term was a big mistake,” RND spokesman Seddik Chihab told El Bilad TV.

“Extra constitutional forces have seized power in the past few years and ruled state affairs outside a legal framework.”

Bouteflika, who has ruled for 20 years, bowed to the protesters last week by reversing plans to stand for a fifth term. But he stopped short of stepping down and said he would stay in office until a new constitution is adopted, effectively extending his present term.

His moves have done nothing to halt demonstrations, which peaked on Friday with hundreds of thousands of protesters on the streets of Algiers and have continued into this week.

RND leader Ahmed Ouyahia, a former prime minister who had close ties to intelligence agencies, has also switched sides. “The people’s demands should be met as soon as possible,” he told followers in a letter on Sunday.

Leaders have emerged from the protest movement, offering an alternative to Bouteflika’s political roadmap to what he says will be a new Algeria. But they have not built up enough momentum to force the president to quit or make more concessions.

The military, which wields enormous power from behind the scenes, has remained on the sidelines.

Another powerful figure, Bouteflika’s younger brother Said, has kept a low profile. The president has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke five years ago, and the protesters say a shadowy circle of aides, including Said, have been ruling the country in his name.

The protests continued on Tuesday, with students, university professors and health workers rallying in Algiers calling for Bouteflika to quit.

A new group headed by activists and opposition figures told the army not to interfere.

In the first direct public message to the generals from leaders emerging from the protests, the National Coordination for Change said the military should “play its constitutional role without interfering in the people’s choice”.

(Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Peter Graff)

Source: OANN

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is asking the FBI about news reports that suggest "foreign adversaries," a list that includes Russia, have created social media pages for fake veterans groups in an effort to target past and present members of the United States military.

Reps. Gilbert Cisneros, D-Calif., Ted Lieu, D-Calif., Don Bacon, R-Neb., and Greg Steube, R-Fla., wrote a letter to FBI director Christopher Wray asking if the bureau is looking into the claims.

They cited stories in the media and studies that found evidence of the practice by Russia and other foreign nations.

"As a Navy Veteran, it's troubling to see that foreign actors are distributing false information to our service members and their families, impersonating congressionally chartered [veteran service organizations], and deceiving the American people," Cisneros said in a press release.

"Our service members safeguard our country against threats to our democracy like the ones posed by these bad actors, and now it's time to safeguard our veterans and their families."

The congressmen asked Wray if the FBI is aware of the reports, if it has looked into them, and if it would be willing to meet with veterans groups.

"It is clear the FBI has a strong role to play in protecting our nation's veterans against these egregious attacks," the letter reads.

Source: NewsMax

Stephanie Hamill | Video Columnist

WATCH:

The effort isn’t exactly new. Some liberal states and cities have tried to give 16- and 17-year-olds the right to vote, but the efforts failed.
Now those who support this effort will say that 16-year-olds are “mature” enough to make a decision on who should run our country. But, at the same time, they will say these teens aren’t mature enough to purchase a gun or join the military.

Interesting how that works.

___________________

Source: The Daily Caller

FILE PHOTO - Members of the Army march up 5th Avenue during the Veterans Day Parade in New York
FILE PHOTO – Members of the Army march up 5th Avenue during the Veterans Day Parade in New York November 11, 2012. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

March 19, 2019

By Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A federal judge on Tuesday contradicted the Trump administration’s “incorrect” claim that no legal blocks remain for it to enforce a contentious policy to restrict many transgender individuals from the U.S. armed forces starting on April 12.

In a three-page notice, U.S. Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said an injunction that she issued against the policy in 2017 remains in place.

“Defendants were incorrect in claiming that there was no longer an impediment to the military’s implementation” of the transgender policy, the judge wrote.

A spokeswoman for Pentagon said it was consulting with the U.S. Justice Department, which declined to comment.

Three other injunctions issued by judges in separate cases have already been lifted, in part by a Jan. 22 U.S. Supreme Court decision and subsequent action by a federal judge in Maryland.

That prompted the U.S. Defense Department to sign a memo on March 12 that would enforce its service limitations on transgender people, effective one month later.

Kollar-Kotelly’s injunction, however, had been set aside by a three-judge panel of the District of Columbia U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Jan. 4. The panel said it would hold off on issuing a “mandate” to finalize the higher court’s decision until it resolves any request by the plaintiffs who challenged the transgender policy as a violation of the U.S. Constitution to rehear their appeal.

“The Trump administration cannot circumvent the judicial process just to fast track its baseless, unfair ban on transgender servicemembers,” said attorney Jennifer Levi of the anti-discrimination group GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, who represents the plaintiffs.

President Donald Trump in 2017 announced a plan to ban transgender people from the military, reversing Democratic former President Barack Obama’s policy of allowing transgender troops to serve openly and get medical transition care.

In March 2018, Trump backed a revised policy from then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. It banned, in some circumstances, transgender people with gender dysphoria, or distress due to internal conflict between physical gender and gender identity.

The Mattis policy also banned transgender people who seek or have undergone gender transition steps.

(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Richard Chang)

Source: OANN

Audrey Conklin | Reporter

A deployed father of six gave his youngest son, Luca, the surprise of a lifetime Monday.

U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Rob Cesternino, who had been serving a 10-month with the Tennessee National Guard in Kuwait, Jordan, and southern Syria since May of 2018, arranged to surprise his nine-year-old son four days before he was expected home, WSMV News reports. Cesternino says he’s talked to Luca every two weeks since being deployed.

At Luca’s taekwondo practice session Monday night, the nine-year-old was told he would be sparring with three different instructors while blindfolded. What he didn’t know was that while he was sparring with the third instructor, his dad would jump in and take the instructor’s place.

When Cesternino entered the match, Luca continued to punch in the direction of his dad until Cesternino spoke and the realization suddenly came to him. In the video, Luca rips off his blindfold and throws his arms around Cesternino.

“You were such a big boy when I was gone. I’m so proud of you,” Cesternino told Luca, according to WSMV. “We don’t give enough thought to how tough it is on the families we leave behind.”

Cesternino’s five other children are older and live away from home. His oldest daughter’s enlistment in the U.S. Air Force ends in May.

Rob and Luca Cesternino/ YouTube/ Lebanon Democrat

Rob and Luca Cesternino/ YouTube/ Lebanon Democrat

“She’s coming back home,” Cesternino said in a video by Lebanon Democrat. “She’s going to school in Knoxville [to] finish her degree.” Cesternino went on to explain that his daughter works in diagnostic imagery, or radiology, at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. He also has a son who was in the Coast Guard and a son who was in the Navy.

“We’re a military family,” he continued. “My family has served every single generation dating back to WWI. It’s just expected in my family. I tell people the military’s a family business . . . . It’s just expected that you wear the uniform of your country. Again, you don’t have to make it a career. My oldest son wasn’t into picking up a rifle, so he joined the Coast Guard, and he learned to clean up oil spills. The service — it’s important.”

Source: The Daily Caller

Dominique Auzias, co-founder of the Petit Fute French touristic guide book, poses during an interview with Reuters for the launching of their North Korea guide book in Paris
Dominique Auzias, co-founder of the Petit Fute French touristic guide book, poses during an interview with Reuters for the launching of their North Korea guide book in Paris, France, March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

March 19, 2019

By John Irish and Noémie Olive

PARIS (Reuters) – A French publisher has produced a rare guide to North Korea, highlighting its history, cultural wealth and beautiful landscapes but advising tourists not to take the politically sensitive book with them.

Tourism is one of the few remaining reliable sources of foreign income for North Korea, after the U.N. imposed sanctions targeting 90 percent of its $3 billion annual exports including commodities, textiles and seafood.

Tensions over North Korea’s tests of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles spiked on the Korean peninsular last year and there were fears of a U.S. military response to North Korea’s threat to develop a weapon capable of hitting the United States.

“There are a lot of people that are interested in this country be it for nuclear and military reasons, but also economically so … it’s important to provide information,” said Dominique Auzias, president of the Petit Fute, which publishes some 800 guides.

“As it’s a country that’s closed and forbidden everybody dreams of going there,” he said.

Some 400 French tourists visit the country each year with trips costing about 2,000 euros ($2,267).

The reclusive communist state has no official diplomatic relations with France.

Talks in June last year between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provided a detente even if in recent weeks tensions have once again flared.

North Korean authorities would probably confiscate the printed edition given some of the material, Auzias said.

“You don’t go for adventure, but to discover,” he said.

The guide, which took three years to put together, touches little on where to stay or eat because accessing the country as a tourist can only be done through specific travel agents who determine what visitors see.

In some cases however they respond to requests and Auzias said the guide helps people decide what they would like to see.

It makes clear it is imperative to stick to the country’s strict rules or face dire consequences as American student Otto Warmbier did in 2016 when he was sentenced to 15 years of forced labor for trying to steal a propaganda poster in his hotel.

He was returned to the United States in a coma 17 months later, and died shortly after. A coroner said he died from lack of oxygen and blood to the brain.

“The first time I went 10-12 years ago I was proud because I was one of the rare French citizens to get in … but my second moment of happiness was about three weeks later when I left because it was suffocating and mind-boggling,” Auzias said.

(Reporting by John Irish and Noemeie Olive; Editing by Bate Felix and Alexandra Hudson)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Lockheed Martin's logo is seen during Japan Aerospace 2016 air show in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: Lockheed Martin’s logo is seen during Japan Aerospace 2016 air show in Tokyo, Japan, October 12, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

March 19, 2019

BERLIN (Reuters) – A German military helicopter tender likely to be fought out between U.S. arms makers Lockheed Martin and Boeing will get “mandatory” funding of 1.61 billion euros ($1.8 billion) under German budget plans, a government document shows.

Some lawmakers and industry officials had worried that the long-awaited tender could be postponed because Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen secured only half the 4 billion euro increase in military spending she had sought for 2020.

However the document, which is due to be approved by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet this week, singled out the heavy-lift helicopter as the only major arms program on a list of “mandatory elements” of a new four-year budget plan.

The helicopter program is expected to cost Germany around 4 billion euros ($4.54 billion) in the longer term, a rich prize for the winning bidder.

Germany’s defense ministry has previously said it expects to choose either of two U.S. helicopter models, the twin-rotor CH-47 Chinook helicopter built by Boeing, or the new CH-53K King Stallion built by Lockheed’s Sikorsky helicopter unit.

Procurement of the 45-60 helicopters will continue beyond 2023, which is why the four-year plan budgets for a smaller sum.

The Defence Ministry issued a pre-solicitation notice for the new helicopter in February, saying it expected to issue a formal request for proposals in the second half of 2019.

A ministry spokesman declined to comment on the finance ministry document or any specific funding requests.

“We’re at the beginning of the process,” he said.

German government officials will debate and refine the budget request in coming months, and changes are possible, but the fact that the helicopter program was designated mandatory should prevent a postponement of the program, experts said.

Another big arms project that was to be launched this year, an 8 billion euro MEADS missile-defense system, to be built by Europe’s MBDA, owned by Airbus, Italy’s Leonardo and Britain’s BAE Systems, and Lockheed, was not included on the mandatory funding list.

Also absent were four new multi-role MKS 180 warships expected to cost 4.5 billion euros ($5.11 billion), along with a option for two additional ships.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke, Andrea Shalal and Sabine Siebold; Editing by Alexander Smith)

Source: OANN

Brazilian President Bolsonaro participates in Brazil-U.S. Business forum
FILE PHOTO: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro participates in a Brazil-U.S. Business Council forum to discuss relations and future cooperation and engagement in Washington, U.S. March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott

March 19, 2019

By Lisandra Paraguassu

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro endorsed U.S. President Donald Trump’s immigration agenda on the eve of their first meeting at the White House, saying he supports a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and that most immigrants to the United States wish to do harm.

Bolsonaro, a far-right congressman who rode to the presidency with a brash, anti-establishment campaign modeled on Trump’s 2016 run, has pledged a new era of pro-American policy in the Southern Hemisphere’s second-largest country.

Ahead of Tuesday’s Oval Office meeting, Bolsonaro waived a visa requirement for U.S. visitors to Brazil and later in a Fox News interview on Monday night threw his weight behind Trump’s immigration agenda, which includes a wall on the Mexican border.

“We do agree with President Trump’s decision or proposal on the wall,” Bolsonaro said, in remarks translated to English by the broadcaster. “The vast majority of potential immigrants do not have good intentions. They do not intend to do the best or do good to the U.S. people.

“I would very much like the U.S. to uphold the current immigration policy, because to a large extent we owe our democracy in the Southern Hemisphere to the United States,” he said.

Bolsonaro, a former army captain, rose to power praising the U.S.-backed military government that ran Brazil for two decades before a return to democracy in 1985, echoing Cold War rhetoric in his presidential campaign about the need to fight a continued communist threat.

Since his inauguration in January, Bolsonaro also has adopted elements of Trump’s presidential style, including taunting political foes on Twitter and denouncing media coverage he does not like as “fake news.”

Although he did not get into specifics of his agenda in Washington, Bolsonaro said the presidents would discuss a deepening political and economic crisis in socialist Venezuela.

Bolsonaro said Brazil is the country most interested in seeing an end to the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, which he called a “drug trafficking dictatorship.”

In addition to their shared political agenda, Bolsonaro spoke hopefully of a blossoming friendship with Trump.

“I’m willing to open my heart up to him and do whatever is good, to the benefit of both the Brazilian and the American people,” Bolsonaro told Fox News.

(Writing and additional reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun; Editing by Brad Haynes and Bill Trott)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Iranian Material Display at a Military Base in Washington
FILE PHOTO: A U.S. Department of Defense exhibit shows a “Qiam” ballistic missile manufactured in Iran, at a military base in Washington, U.S., November 29, 2018. REUTERS/Al Drago/File Photo

March 19, 2019

GENEVA (Reuters) – A senior U.S. arms control official said on Tuesday that Iran’s missile program is detribalizing the Middle East and raising the risk of a “regional arms race” through the provision of such weapons to armed groups in Lebanon and Yemen.

U.S. President Donald Trump said when he quit a landmark 2015 deal that lifted international sanctions against Iran in exchange for limits on its nuclear activities that it failed to rein in Iran’s missile program or curb its regional meddling.

The United States has accused Iran of defying a U.N. Security Council resolution by carrying out a ballistic missile test and two satellite launches since December.

“Iran’s missile program is a key contributor to increased tensions and destabilization in the region, increasing the risk of a regional arms race,” Yleem Poblete, Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, said in a speech to the U.N.-sponsored Conference on Disarmament.

“Iran must immediately cease activities related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, and halt the proliferation of missiles and missile technology to terror groups and other non-state actors,” she said, denouncing Iran’s support to the Houthi movement in Yemen and to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

She said Iran had provided ballistic missiles to the Houthis that were fired into Saudi Arabia and unmanned aerial systems to Houthi groups that enable strikes against land-based targets in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

“We are committed to aggressively countering Iran’s regional proliferation of ballistic missiles and its unlawful arms transfers,” she added.

Poblete urged “all responsible countries” to enforce United Nations Security Council resolutions restricting the transfer of missile-related technologies to Iran.

She further accused Iran of “pursuing pharmaceutical-based agents for offensive purposes”, but did not elaborate.

An Iranian diplomat took the floor to reject her remarks as “cheap, unprofessional, false, irrelevant and pathetic” and accused the United States of “sabotaging” the Geneva forum.

“We should all be truly worried about the U.S. representative’s misbehavior as we all warn that they may turn violent since they lack any human logic to talk and listen in a normal manner as we are used to,” he said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, Babak Dehghanpisheh and Tom Miles; writing by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by William Maclean)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Dignified transfer ceremony for four Americans killed in Syria is attended by President Trump at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware
FILE PHOTO: The casket carrying the remains of Scott Wirtz, a civilian employee of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency killed along with three members of the U.S. military during a recent attack in Syria, sits in a military vehicle during a dignified transfer ceremony as they are returned to the United States at Dover Air Force Base, in Dover, Delaware, U.S., January 19, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

March 19, 2019

By Phil Stewart

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S.-backed forces have captured Islamic State fighters tied to a January suicide bombing in Syria that killed four Americans, U.S. officials say, generating concrete leads for Washington about the deadliest attack to date there against U.S. personnel.

The bombing killed Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan Farmer, Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician Shannon Kent and Scott Wirtz from the Defense Intelligence Agency. It also killed Ghadir Taher, a naturalized U.S. citizen working as a civilian interpreter for a U.S. contractor.

One of the officials told Reuters the number of people detained was in the “single digits.” A second official said there were several “initial detentions” made in February, without offering a specific number. The detentions have not been previously reported.

“Those initial detentions have provided some leads and opportunities that we are continuing to exploit,” the second official said, speaking on condition of anonymity and declining to offer additional details.

“The investigation is ongoing as are efforts to bring all of those terrorists responsible to justice.”

The attack was the worst single incident involving U.S. personnel in Syria since they deployed on the ground there in 2015 and took place at a cafe in the town of Manbij, which was controlled by a militia allied to U.S.-backed Kurdish forces.

The bombing occurred nearly a month after President Donald Trump confounded his own national security team and allies with a surprise decision on Dec. 19 to withdraw all 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria, declaring Islamic State had been defeated there.

Critics seized on the killings as clear evidence that the Islamic State still posed a threat.

Trump backtracked in February, agreeing to leave a small U.S. presence to help keep pressure on Islamic State during what the U.S. military believes will be a critical stabilization phase in Syria. The United States is seeking contributions from allies including Britain and France to remain in Syria.

INSURGENCY THREAT

The U.S. military has warned that Islamic State may still count tens of thousands of fighters, dispersed throughout Iraq and Syria, with enough leaders and resources to present a menacing insurgency in the months ahead.

The Pentagon’s own internal watchdog released a report last month saying Islamic State remained an active insurgent group and was regenerating functions and capabilities more quickly in Iraq than in Syria.

“Absent sustained (counterterrorism) pressure, ISIS could likely resurge in Syria within six to 12 months and regain limited territory,” the report from the Pentagon’s inspector general said.

The report, citing information from U.S. Central Command, said Islamic State would portray the withdrawal as a “victory” and conduct attacks on American personnel during the pullout process.

A report by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that Islamic State has transformed into a covert network, but is still a threat with centralized leadership, up to $300 million at its disposal and thousands of fighters.

It said the group was interested in attacking aviation and using chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials and that there were up to 18,000 Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, including up to 3,000 foreign fighters.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Tom Brown)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Demonstrator carries a national flag during protest over President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's decision to postpone elections and extend his fourth term in office, in Algiers
FILE PHOTO: A demonstrator carries a national flag during protest over President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s decision to postpone elections and extend his fourth term in office, in Algiers, Algeria March 15, 2019. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina/File Photo

March 19, 2019

By Lamine Chikhi

ALGIERS (Reuters) – A new group headed by political leaders, opposition figures and activists called on Algeria’s powerful generals to stay out of politics as it pressed President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and the government to quit.

In the first direct message to the army from leaders emerging from mass protests against Bouteflika, the National Coordination for Change said the military should “play its constitutional role without interfering in the people choice”.

Generals have traditionally wielded power from behind the scenes in Algeria but have stepped in during pivotal moments.

In 1992, the army canceled elections an Islamist party was set to win, triggering a long civil war that killed an estimated 200,000 people. Soldiers have stayed in their barracks throughout the recent unrest.

In a statement titled “Platform of Change” and issued late on Monday, the organization demanded the Bouteflika should step down before the end of his term on April 28 and the government resign immediately.

Algerian authorities have always been adept at manipulating a weak and disorganised opposition.

But more than three weeks of demonstrations – which peaked on Friday with hundreds of thousands of people on the streets of Algiers – have emboldened well-known figures to lead the drive for reforms in the North African country.

Prominent members of the new group include lawyer and activist Mustapha Bouchachi, opposition leader Karim Tabou and former treasury minister Ali Benouari, as well as Mourad Dhina and Kamel Guemazi, who belong to an outlawed Islamist party.

Zoubida Assoul, leader of a small political party, is the only woman in the group so far.

Bouteflika, rarely seen in public since a stroke in 2013, has failed to ease anger on the streets by reversing a decision to seek a fifth term, postponing an election and planning a conference that will chart a new political future.

But he stopped short of stepping down, and effectively prolonged his fourth term.

“Bouteflika just trampled on the constitution after he decided to extend his fourth term,” said the National Coordination for Change.

(Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Source: OANN

Democrat Party leader and former Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva poses with a supporter during his campaign rally in Bangkok
Democrat Party leader and former Thailand’s Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva poses with a supporter during his campaign rally in Bangkok, Thailand January 29, 2019. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

March 19, 2019

By Panu Wongcha-um and Panarat Thepgumpanat

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s oldest political party is heading into an election on Sunday with leader Abhisit Vejjajiva facing tough choices in the first polls since the military seized power in a 2014 coup.

Will Abhisit’s pro-business, pro-establishment Democrat Party join with a new pro-military party in a coalition after the vote, likely extending the army’s dominance of power?

Or will the Democrats band together with a “pro-democracy front” to keep the army out of government – but at the price of working with its bitter foe for 15 years: parties loyal to ousted populist prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Or is there a third option, as Abhisit argues? One scenario could return Oxford-educated Abhisit to the prime minister’s office, which he held from 2008 to 2011 after a court dissolved a pro-Thaksin government.

“We will be the alternative in leading Thailand out of the last decade of troubles,” Abhisit, 54, told Reuters in an interview.

Prominent Democrats have been at the center of Thailand’s turbulent politics since 2005, with some party members leading anti-Thaksin “Yellow Shirt” protests against corruption that led to two military coups in a decade.

Sunday’s election has been billed by the military government as returning Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy to civilian, democratic rule. But critics say a new constitution, overseen by the generals, enshrines military influence over politics.

Doubts the army will truly give up power were heightened last month when a new pro-military party nominated junta chief and prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led the 2014 coup, as its prime ministerial candidate.

Abhisit this month said in a campaign video he would not support Prayuth’s staying on as prime minister, which he said would “breed conflict and is against the Democrat party’s principle that the people have the power”.

At the same time, Abhisit made clear he would be loath to work with the main pro-Thaksin party, Pheu Thai. The Democrats have long decried the Thaksin movement as corrupt and a threat to independent democratic institutions.

“I don’t want dictatorship and I don’t want corrupt people,” Abhisit said. “Corrupt politicians provided the pretexts for the military to stage all the coups in the last 20 years.”

COMPROMISE PM?

Thaksin lives in self-exile to avoid a 2008 graft conviction he said was politically motivated but he retains widespread support, especially in the north and northeast.

The Democrats have traditionally drawn support from the Bangkok middle class and the south.

Abhisit’s hopes for a third way could come to nothing in an election increasingly defined by the face-off between pro-military parties, which have Prayuth as their candidate for prime minister and electoral rules that give them an advantage, and an anti-military bloc with Thaksin’s loyalists at its core.

While Abhisit has rejected Prayuth as prime minister, he has not ruled out a coalition with Palang Pracharat, the party that has nominated the junta leader.

Such a deal might see a “compromise” premier, perhaps Abhisit himself or another outside candidate.

The target for political parties is 376 seats in parliament – 50 percent plus one of the combined 250-seat upper house Senate and the 500-seat lower House of Representatives.

But with the junta appointing all 250 members of the Senate, no single party is likely to secure the 376 magic number on its own.

Given that the pro-military Palang Pracharat can count on the support of the Senate, it needs to win only 126 lower house seats to form a government.

By contrast, the parties opposed to a military role in government must win 376 seats in the lower house, three-quarters of the seats, to block the military from retaining control.

Still, most polls indicate Palang Pracharat won’t win enough seats on its own meaning it would need coalition partners, with the Democrats a likely choice.

‘NOT BLACK AND WHITE’

The Democrats have come second to pro-Thaksin parties in every election since 2001, including the last one in 2011, when they got 35 percent of the vote to Pheu Thai’s 48 percent.

Opinion polls tend to show the Democrats coming second or third. The party will be competing for the anti-Thaksin vote with other parties, including Palang Pracharat.

The Democrat Party was founded in 1947 as a conservative, royalist movement, and has portrayed itself as a champion of civilian rule in a country that has seen 13 successful coups, even if at times it worked with military governments.

In 1992, the Democrats sided with anti-army demonstrators in an uprising that led to a bloody crackdown. The party won an election later that year but it was blamed for mishandling the wrenching fall-out of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, which paved the way for the rise of telecoms tycoon Thaksin.

Amid polarisation in the 2000s, the Democrats benefited from the military’s opposition to Thaksin, and at times called for military intervention to oust pro-Thaksin governments.

Abhisit has rejected efforts by Thaksin’s loyalists to portray the election as a two-way fight between democracy and military-dominated rule.

“This election is not black and white, the country has more choices,” he told Reuters.

Anti-junta parties, however, argue there is no neutrality or third way in the election.

“Abhisit says he will not join with Pheu Thai, but does that mean he will join with Palang Pracharat?” asked Sudarat Keyuraphan, Pheu Thai’s top prime ministerial candidate.

“There are only two sides,” she said. “So he must choose.”

(Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Source: OANN

The Trump administration is requesting $86 billion in spending for intelligence agencies, including $23 billion for highly classified military intelligence activities (MIP) in fiscal year 2020, The New York Times reports.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said the administration wants $62.8 billion for its intelligence agencies while the Pentagon asked for $22.95 billion for its secretive "black budget."

Overall, the budget includes a 6 percent spending increase and covers the costs of cyberweapons, spy satellites, and the national intelligence program that supports the armed services and tactical units.

Both budgets also propose spending more money on capabilities to compete with Russia and China, according to officials who spoke with the Times.

The MIP supports "defense intelligence activities intended to support tactical military operations and priorities," according to a 2016 Congressional Research Service, while funding for the National Intelligence Program goes to nondefense organizations.

The Pentagon in a statement said the request includes base budget funding as well as the war fund known overseas as the overseas contingency operations account.

"The department determined that releasing this top-line figure does not jeopardize any classified activities within the MIP," the statement noted. "No other MIP budget figures or program details will be released, as they remain classified for national security reasons."

Source: NewsMax

A general view of green zone in Kabul, Afghanistan
A general view of green zone in Kabul, Afghanistan March 13, 2019. Picture taken March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

March 19, 2019

By Abdul Qadir Sediqi, Rod Nickel and Rupam Jain

KABUL, Afghanistan (Reuters) – Kabul’s green zone is a place where diplomats fly in cheesecake from New York and cases of wine from Europe, but many of those residing inside the heavily fortified enclave are not allowed to walk without an armed guard even for a distance of 100 meters.

The walled-off compound of embassies and newsrooms, which is set to expand dramatically, imposes extreme limitations on its sheltered residents and stokes resentment among Afghans living outside.

“The best possible argument to be in Afghanistan is to be a sort of introvert,” said Czech Republic Ambassador Petr Stepanek. “You don’t expect a blossoming social life.”

Kabul’s central green zone is set in the affluent Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood. Trees pre-dating decades of war still stretch above the razor-wire topped walls that line once-tony streets patrolled by police and private security.

It grew from a cluster of fortified embassies after the Taliban’s 2001 overthrow by U.S.-led forces. In 2017, a truck bomb near the German embassy, one of the green zone’s entry points, killed or wounded hundreds, prompting further enlargement.

Its rapid expansion reflects the Taliban’s increasing attacks on Kabul in recent years, in a strategy shift to counter its disadvantages against U.S.-backed air power outside the capital.

Kabul police commander Sayed Mohammad Roshandil said in an interview that the green zone has been a major success.

Since the Germany embassy attack, there have been no security breaches of the zone, which spans three police districts, he said. A maximum of 150 trucks are allowed inside per day, with drivers verified by biometric scanners.

EXPANSION PLAN

Police are now preparing to create a “blue zone” to surround the green zone, stretching the fortified area by between 1.5 and four kilometers, said Roshandil.

The number of closed-circuit cameras throughout Kabul would more than double to 800 within the same period, he said, helped by a $42 million contribution from the Australian government.

But beyond the grey concrete “T-walls” that surround the green zone, some Afghans resent the dangers and hassles they say such secure enclaves create.

Taxi driver Mohammad Taher, 37, avoids the area around the green zone because of police checkpoints that grind traffic to a halt, though he adds that Afghans working in the foreign offices collect “huge salaries”, giving the economy a much-needed boost.

“Sometimes I feel that they are living a life completely different from us,” said Tamim, 28, a shopkeeper, of the “western style of life” inside the green zone.

Afghans living near the Green Village compound in eastern Kabul, another fortified zone that is home to international companies and charities, bore the brunt of casualties and damage after a bomb-laden car blew up nearby in January.

“We villagers cannot tolerate this camp here because our lives are in danger,” said Noor Alam, 46, a shopkeeper and resident of nearby Qala-e-Chaman Qabelbay. “The presence of foreign camps close to the common residential area is like a death threat to the people.”

But Roshandil, the police commander, said residents near green zones were better off.

“So far, people are welcoming this plan,” he said. “When people are living in an area with security restrictions, they should accept that. Overall, (residents) are happy.”

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the green zone provided government and foreign officials mere “psychological relief”.

“The green zone is not that safe as they think,” he said, adding that past Taliban attacks on it have succeeded. If the militant group agrees to a peace deal and fighting stops, the Taliban would insist that its walls were removed, Mujahid said.

The development of the green zone, including NATO’s military base, in the middle of a crowded city demonstrated “sheer disrespect” for the security of local people, said Thomas Ruttig, co-director of Afghanistan Analysts Network, an independent think-tank.

RARE COMFORTS

For those on the inside, the green zone features comforts that are rare elsewhere in Kabul. Generators fire up during the city’s frequent power cuts, living quarters are well-heated in winter and, during hot summers, swimming pools offer relief.

In an officially dry country, liquor flows at most embassies. Pet peacocks stroll the grounds of a United Nations compound.

But green zone embassies offer little of the freedom common to most diplomatic postings.

“Even though I get out almost every day, the places we can go are limited. It’s very difficult to get a feeling” for what regular Afghans think, said German ambassador to Afghanistan Peter Prügel. Embassies only host those Afghans who pass the green zone’s security requirements, further narrowing expats’ contacts with the country.

Even travel within the zone is regulated. Security details forbid some diplomats from walking to neighboring embassies, making necessary absurdly slow, short-distance drives through internal gates and over speed bumps.

“We are in a total bubble here,” a Canadian diplomat said. “There is a bit of an illusion here that what you see in Kabul is common to the rest of the country.”

(Reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi, Rod Nickel and Rupam Jain in Kabul; additional reporting by John Davison in Baghdad; Editing by Alex Richardson)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: China's President Xi Jinping visits Portugal
FILE PHOTO: China’s President Xi Jinping attends a meeting with Portugal’s Parliamentary President Eduardo Ferro Rodrigues at the Parliament in Lisbon, Portugal, December 5, 2018. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes/File Photo

March 19, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese educators must respond to “false ideas and thoughts” when teaching political and ideological classes, President Xi Jinping said, in a sensitive year that marks the 30th anniversary of student-led protests around Tiananmen Square.

Beijing has campaigned against the spread of “Western values” in education, especially at universities, and the ruling Communist Party’s anti-corruption watchdog has sent inspectors to monitor teachers for “improper” remarks in class.

Addressing a symposium for teachers of ideological and political theory in Beijing, Xi said the party must nurture generations of talent to support its leadership and China’s socialist system, state media said late on Monday.

“It is essential to gradually open and upgrade ideological and political theory courses in primary, secondary and tertiary schools, which is an important guarantee for training future generations who are well-prepared to join the socialist cause,” media paraphrased Xi as saying.

“Ideological and political courses should deliver the country’s mainstream ideology and directly respond to false ideas and thoughts,” Xi added. The report did not elaborate.

The government has previously admitted that political education for university students was outdated and unfashionable, though the education minister said last year this problem had been fixed.

Xi alluded to that in his comments.

“We are fully confident of and capable of running ideological and political theory courses better,” he said.

“Thought on socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era should be used to educate people and guide students to strengthen their confidence in the path, theory, system, and culture of socialism with Chinese characteristics and to boost patriotism,” Xi added.

Crackdowns on what academics and students can say and should think are nothing new in China.

Courses and speech at universities, in particular, are tightly controlled by the government, fearful of a repeat of pro-democracy protests in 1989 led by students and eventually bloodily crushed by the military.

In 2013, a liberal Chinese economist who had been an outspoken critic of the party was expelled from the elite Peking University.

A year later, the university, once a bastion of free speech in China, established a 24-hour system to monitor public opinion on the internet and take early measures to rein in negative speech, a party journal said at the time.

China aims to build world-class universities and some of its top schools fare well in global rankings, but critics argue curbs on academic freedom could inhibit those ambitions.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Afghanistan National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi before their meeting in Beijing
FILE PHOTO: Afghanistan National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi before their meeting at the Zhongnanhai Leadership Compound in Beijing, China January 10, 2019. Andy Wong/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

March 18, 2019

By Jonathan Landay

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In fallout from a feud over U.S.-Taliban peace talks, a senior U.S. diplomat has told Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that U.S. officials will no longer deal with his national security adviser, four knowledgable sources said on Monday.

The decision to end U.S. contacts with Hamdullah Mohib will almost certainly raise tensions between the allies over Kabul’s exclusion from negotiations that have mainly focused on a U.S. troop pullout and how the Taliban would stop militant groups from using Afghanistan as a springboard for attacks.

Mohib had launched a blistering public attack last Thursday on the chief U.S. negotiator, Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad.

The following day, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale told Ghani by phone that Mohib would no longer be received in Washington and U.S. civilian and military officials would not do business with him, the sources said.

“Hale called Ghani and told him that Mohib is no longer welcome in D.C. The U.S. will not deal with him in Kabul or in D.C. any more,” said a former senior Afghan official, who like the other sources requested anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity.

Kabul fears that Washington is intent on finalizing a U.S. troop pullout to fulfill a vow by President Donald Trump, undermining its ability to reach a political pact with the Taliban that preserves gains, such as women’s education, won since the 2001 U.S. invasion ended the militants’ harsh version of Islamic rule.

The former Afghan official said he saw the move as an effort to compel Ghani to “oust” Mohib, who became the president’s national security adviser after serving as his envoy to Washington.

A second source, a congressional aide, agreed that pressuring Ghani to end contacts with Mohib was “one way of looking at this” because the State Department provides funding for the Afghan president’s national security council staff.

The State Department and the Afghan embassy did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Simmering tensions over the Afghan government’s exclusion from the U.S.-Taliban talks in Doha, Qatar, erupted with Mohib’s attack on Khalilzad, an Afghan-born U.S. diplomat, at a news conference in Washington.

He accused Khalilzad of giving the Taliban legitimacy while “delegitimizing the Afghan government.” He added that Khalilzad perhaps was trying to create “a caretaker government of which he would then become viceroy.”

Viceroy was the title of the colonial administrator of British-ruled India.

The State Department responded with a strong statement quoting Hale as telling Mohib later Thursday that his comments “only serve to hinder the bilateral relationship and the peace process.”

The latest round of peace talks ended on March 11 after 16 days. The sides reported progress, but no accord on a withdrawal of U.S.-led international forces and the Taliban’s counter-extremist assurances.

U.S. negotiators also are pressing the insurgents to accept a ceasefire and talks with Afghan society representatives, including government officials. The Taliban have refused to talk to Ghani’s government, which they deride as a U.S. puppet.

In an interview on Monday with Reuters, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Qatar, Faizullah Kakar, said that another country should not be negotiating on the use of Afghan territory by militants.

“It is the government that should be deciding, whoever the government is, that the territory is used or not used against another country,” he said.

(Reporting by Jonathan Landay; Additional reporting by Erich Knecht in Doha; Editing by Alistair Bell)

Source: OANN

Acting Pentagon Chief Patrick Shanahan said on Monday he had provided Congress with a list of projects from the military construction budget that could be cut back in order to help pay for a wall on the border with Mexico.

Last month Trump declared a national emergency in a bid to fund his promised wall at the U.S.-Mexico border without congressional approval.

The emergency declaration allows the Trump administration to use money from the military construction budget, if needed.

Trump issued the first veto of his presidency on Friday to block a measure passed by Democrats and Republicans in Congress that would terminate his emergency declaration for a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico to stem illegal immigration and crime.

Speaking before the start of his meeting with his French counterpart, Shanahan was asked if he had sent the list of projects to Congress.

"I have," Shanahan said.

The more than 20-page document seen by Reuters included all the projects that were not awarded funding as of Dec. 31 2018.

The list includes a cemetery at the U.S. Military Academy in New York and a command and control facility at Camp Tango in South Korea.

It is essentially up to Congress to go through the list and figure out which projects will not be affected, including military housing, barracks and projects that have already been awarded funding.

The list is unlikely to satisfy Congress.

"This list is wholly insufficient and just tells Congress what projects it already approved," said Evan Hollander, a spokesman for Representative Nita Lowey, a Democrat and chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee.

"This appears to be nothing more than another stall tactic designed to delay the political consequences of President Trump’s emergency declaration," Hollander said.

In a statement, the Pentagon said the pool of projects included was valued at about $12.9 billion. The Pentagon has said it could use about $3.6 billion from the military construction budget this year, if needed.

The issue was highlighted during a tense Congressional hearing on Thursday, when Democratic Senators demanded that they be provided a list of military that could be impacted if funding was used to build a wall.

"We know President Trump wants to take money from our national security accounts to pay for his wall, and now we have a list of some of the projects and needed base repairs that could be derailed or put on the chopping block as a result," Senator Jack Reed said in a statement.

Source: NewsMax

On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) unabashedly embraced the tactics behind one of the most shameful policies of the Obama era, openly using the guise of her federal authority to berate and not so subtly threaten a bank for lawfully serving businesses that don’t reflect her political views. 

While the media did their best to protect Barack Obama and his administration from any hint of scandal, two gun related issues managed to stain the White House with considerable and widespread disrepute. 

One concerned a program to secretly “walk” guns from American firearm dealers directly into the clutches of ruthless Mexican drug cartels, while at the same using the resulting violence as a pretext to call for increased firearm regulation in the U.S. The officials involved dubbed this Operation Fast & Furious. It was only the death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, killed in a shootout that involved one of the “walked” guns, that finally forced the issue into the national consciousness. 

The other scandal involved federal regulators pressuring banks and payment processors to sever ties with businesses that were completely lawful but that offended anti-gun sensibilities. These included members of the gun industry. This program was known as Operation Choke Point (OCP), and while no fatalities have been attributed to it, the scheme struck at the heart of the rule of law. 

In the case of OCP, Department of Justice and Federal Deposit Insurance Company officials provided sworn testimony to Congress denying that regulators were pressuring banks to drop business the regulators found morally objectionable. Apparently, they suggested, the banks just misunderstood the “risk management” guidance they were being provided. In time (after considerable damage had already been done, and the banks thoroughly understood their unwritten marching orders), guidance documents were revised to “clarify” the regulators’ “true intent.”

The NRA and others have already been reporting on how shades of OCP have reappeared in a re-emboldened anti-gun House majority, as well as in their media and plutocratic enablers. 

But an oversight hearing by the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday provided one of the clearest and most shocking examples to date of how anti-gun Democrats are now willing to embrace as official policy what was still treated as scandal under the Obama administration.

The title of the hearing was “Holding Megabanks Accountable: An Examination of Wells Fargo’s Pattern of Consumer Abuses.” Wells Fargo, not coincidentally, provides banking services to the NRA. 

The only witness at the four hour plus hearing was Wells Fargo President and Chief Executive Officer Timothy J. Sloan. Mr. Sloan had the unenviable task of serving as punching bag during an extended production of Political Outrage Theatre. The entire premise of the hearing was that Wells Fargo might very well have to endure yet more regulation and oversight – or perhaps be broken up altogether – unless Mr. Sloan provided satisfactory answers to committee members’ questions about the bank and its business practices.

Maloney, for her part, excoriated Mr. Sloan and Wells Fargo for refusing to follow the lead of other national banks that had refused or severed business with members of the gun industry that did not “voluntarily” adopt certain gun control “best practices” that exceed the requirements of federal law.  

These practices include banning long gun purchases by young adults eligible for military service and refusing to recognize the 3-day default transfer option that gun dealers may exercise if the FBI does not complete a background check. They also just happened to mirror policy goals that anti-gun Democrats – a category that includes Maloney herself – have been pursuing through legislation they have not to date been successful in enacting. 

Maloney, in other words, was not accusing Wells Fargo of having done anything illegal by transacting with members of the firearm industry. Rather, she was criticizing the bank for not imposing anti-gun rules that Congress itself has failed to adopt. 

Maloney noted that Wells Fargo does have corporate “human rights” practices that in some cases exceed legal and industry standards. She then mentioned the Parkland massacre, as if Wells Fargo were somehow complicit in the acts of a deranged murderer who had nothing to do with the bank and who had been given authorization to buy the gun he used in his crime by the federal government itself via its background check system.

“Why,” Maloney demanded to know, “does Wells Fargo continue to put profits over people by financing companies that are making weapons that are literally killing our children and our neighbors? … How bad does the mass shooting epidemic have to get before you will adopt common sense gun safety policies like other banks have done?”

Given the backdrop of Operation Choke Point, Maloney might as well have asked, “Federal regulators and big city newspapers have browbeaten your competition into submission on the issue of servicing firearm industry clients. How dare you defy their wishes and continue to do so?” She also invoked the shibboleth that school shootings are increasing, a premise that research refutes. 

Mr. Sloan calmly answered, “We don’t put profits over people. We bank many industries across this country.” He continued, “We do our best to ensure that all of our customers who we bank follow the laws and regulations that are in place on a local and a state and a national level.” 

Maloney then interrupted, insisting that the bank’s commitment to gun control should be as strong as its commitment to human rights. 

Mr. Sloan, however, stood his ground. “We just don’t believe that it is a good idea to encourage banks to enforce legislation that doesn’t exist.”

He didn’t add, but he could have, that respect for human rights also necessitates respect for the fundamental rights of self-preservation and self-protection. 

The entire exchange can be seen on this video, starting at 48:03.

Needless to say, no business in America could survive if it had to comply not just with all the binding laws that regulators foist upon the country’s companies and employers but with the personal sensibilities and politics of all 535 federal legislators, plus those of thousands of federal bureaucrats. 

Nor could any business survive if it had to answer for every unaffiliated person who abused or misused one of its products or services. 

That is why America is often said to be a country of laws, not men. That principle has provided the most stable and prosperous economy and business environment the world has ever known.

That stability is threatened, however, by those like Maloney and others who would rule by intimidation and humiliation rather than by duly enacted legislation.

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the “lobbying” arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Source: The Daily Caller

FILE PHOTO: A Venezuelan flag hangs from a building near the national election board as acting President Maduro registered as a candidate for president in the April 14 election in Caracas
FILE PHOTO: A Venezuelan flag hangs from a building in Caracas March 11, 2013. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo/File Photo

March 18, 2019

By Phil Stewart

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – As the United States makes its biggest diplomatic push in Latin America in years to try to oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the U.S. military is zeroing in on a byproduct of the crisis: a strengthening of Colombian rebels on both sides of Venezuela’s border.

U.S. Admiral Craig Faller, the head of the U.S. military’s Southern Command that oversees U.S. forces in Latin America, told Reuters the United States had sharpened its focus on the rebels and increased its sharing of intelligence with Colombian officials. 

U.S. officials see a growing threat from both Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) and factions of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that refuse to adhere to a 2016 peace agreement to end five decades of civil war.

The United States believes the rebels are taking advantage of Venezuela’s crisis to expand their reach in that country and the scope of long-standing illegal activities, including drug trafficking.

“Our principal role working with our Colombian partners is to assist in intelligence sharing. What we know, we share,” Faller said. Asked whether the intelligence sharing on the rebels had ramped up as Venezuela’s crisis deepened, Faller responded: “Absolutely.”

The risks from the insurgents on both sides of the Colombia-Venezuela border add another layer of complexity to the crisis in Venezuela, where U.S. President Donald Trump says all options are on the table to remove Maduro from office.

U.S. officials have uniformly emphasized diplomatic and economic tools to accelerate Maduro’s departure, like sanctions, but Faller acknowledged the U.S. military stood ready to provide options if needed.

At the same time, he noted that no U.S. allies in the region were seeking a military solution to the crisis in Venezuela.

“My job is to be ready, be on the balls of my feet, at all times. But we’ve been talking to our partners and no one, no one, thinks that a military option is a good idea,” Faller said.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido says the May 2018 vote in which Maduro won a second term was a sham and he invoked a constitutional provision on Jan. 23 to assume the interim presidency. Most Western nations including the United States have backed Guaido as head of state.

Maduro, a socialist who has denounced Guaido as a U.S. puppet seeking to foment a coup, retains the support of the armed forces and control of state functions.

Jeremy McDermott, a Colombia-based expert on the insurgencies and co-founder of the Insight Crime think tank, said he believed the Colombian insurgents were operating in Venezuela with at least the blessing of Maduro.

The rebels’ aim is to exploit Venezuela’s lawlessness for safe haven and for economic gain, he said. But he noted there could be an added benefit for Maduro.

“If the Americans invade, or if Colombia promotes a military intervention, then they (Maduro’s supporters) would be able to call upon an insurgent force with more than 50 years of combat experience,” McDermott said.

Asked whether the United States had any evidence of communications between Maduro and the guerrilla groups, Faller said: “I’d rather not discuss the details of the exact connections but we’re watching it very closely.”

Venezuela’s Information Ministry and ELN contacts did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Colombia’s ambassador to Washington, former Vice President Francisco Santos, said ELN and FARC factions had long been present in Venezuela but had grown stronger and more integrated into the country as a result of Venezuela’s crisis.

“They have become the paramilitary groups of the Maduro administration,” Santos told Reuters.

ELN EXPANSION

A Cuba-inspired Marxist insurgency formed in 1964, the ELN claimed responsibility for a January car bomb attack against a police academy in Bogota that killed 22 cadets. It was an escalation by insurgents who have kidnapped Colombian security forces, attacked police stations and bombed oil pipelines.

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, say the ELN is increasingly using Venezuelan territory to carry out narco-trafficking and illegal mining of minerals like gold and coltan.

The Venezuelan security forces were believed to be getting kickbacks from the guerrillas, they said.

One U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. collection of intelligence on the guerrilla groups had increased in recent weeks, including looking at the militants’ activities on the Venezuelan side of the border with Colombia.

Several U.S. officials said they believed senior leaders of both the ELN and the so-called FARC dissidents who do not adhere to the peace agreement were now located inside of Venezuela.

“Their leadership is there,” a second U.S. official said, who also declined to be named, without providing evidence.

An International Crisis Group report cited estimates that the ELN had been active in a minimum of 13 of Venezuela’s 24 states, “absorbing new recruits and shifting from a guerrilla force that embraced armed resistance against Colombia’s ruling elites to one with many core operations in Venezuela.”

Opposition lawmakers in Venezuela also regularly denounce growing ELN activities in Venezuela, but Reuters has been unable to independently verify the extent of its presence or its operations.

Faller declined to discuss any specifics about the collection of U.S. intelligence or identify which insurgent leaders were in Venezuela.

But he acknowledged the trend and added that the flow of illegal narcotics “from Colombia into Venezuela, and then from Venezuela out in the region, has risen as the misery of the Venezuelan people has risen.”

“It’s essentially a lawless region now inside Venezuela along the border and the FARC dissidents and the ELN have taken advantage of that,” Faller said, adding: “They operate with impunity inside Venezuela.”

Santos said the big concern for Colombia was that the strengthening rebel forces would upend efforts to crack down on narcotics trafficking.

“That’s a big worry because in this situation of chaos, obviously they are going to grow. They are growing,” he said.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Additional reporting by Brian Ellsworth in Caracas and Helen Murphy in Bogota; Editing by Mary Milliken and Peter Cooney)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Carlos Alfredo Vecchio leave the White House after their meeting in Washington
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (right) and Carlos Alfredo Vecchio, charge d’affaires appointed by Venezuela’s self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido leave the White House after their meeting in Washington, U.S., January 29, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Young/File Photo

March 18, 2019

By Gershon Peaks

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Representatives of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido have taken control of three of the country’s diplomatic properties in the United States, Guaido’s U.S. envoy said on Monday, as the opposition presses its bid to oust socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

The envoy, Carlos Vecchio, said the opposition had gained control of two buildings belonging to Venezuela’s defense ministry in Washington and one consular building in New York. He added that the group expects to take control of Venezuela’s embassy in Washington “in the days to come.”

The moves come after Guaido, the president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency in January, arguing that Maduro’s May 2018 re-election was illegitimate. He has been recognized as Venezuela’s rightful leader by most Western countries, including the United States.

“We are taking these steps in order to preserve the assets of the Venezuelans here in this country,” Vecchio said from one of the buildings, the office of Venezuela’s military attache to Washington, after removing a portrait of Maduro from the wall and replacing it with one of Guaido.

Maduro, who has branded Guaido a U.S. puppet seeking to oust him in a coup, broke off relations with Washington after it recognized Guaido, calling diplomatic and consular staff back to Caracas.

Of 55 staff members, 12 decided to remain in the United States and support Guaido, Vecchio said on Monday. He added that his staff would work out of the attache building, which is located in the upscale Kalorama neighborhood and has an assessed value of $2.2 million, according to Washington property records.

Venezuela’s information ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the opposition’s move to take possession of the properties.

Vecchio spoke alongside Colonel Jose Luis Silva, Venezuela’s military attache to Washington who recognized Guaido on Jan. 27. Few other high-ranking members of the military have heeded Guaido’s call to break with Maduro, who retains the support of the armed forces and control of state functions.

On Monday, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters an army general has defected and fled to Colombia. Vecchio said he was confident that Venezuela, which is undergoing an economic and humanitarian crisis, was in “an irreversible process of change” but that “it won’t come easily.”

The United States withdrew all its remaining diplomatic personnel in Venezuela last week.

(Reporting by Gershon Peaks in Washington; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Tom Brown)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO - French Defence Minister Florence Parly stands with marine officers as she visits the aircraft carrier
FILE PHOTO – French Defence Minister Florence Parly stands with marine officers as she visits the aircraft carrier “Charles de Gaulle”, on the occasion of the completion of its 18 month-long renovation in Toulon, France, November 8, 2018. Christophe Simon/Pool via REUTERS

March 18, 2019

By Idrees Ali

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said on Monday that Europe was concerned about the United States’ long-term commitment to NATO and implicitly criticized President Donald Trump’s approach toward the military alliance.

Trump, as the alliance’s de facto leader, has made defense spending a priority after years of defense cuts following the 1945-90 Cold War. He has questioned NATO’s value to Washington.

“What Europeans are worried about is this: will the U.S. commitment be perennial?,” Parly said during an event in Washington. She will meet with her American counterpart at the Pentagon on Monday to discuss issues including Syria.

“The alliance should be unconditional, otherwise it is not an alliance. NATO’s solidarity clause is called Article 5, not article F-35,” Parly added, in a reference to the Lockheed-Martin F-35 jet fighter. She did not mention Trump specifically.

NATO treaty’s Article 5 is a provision that means an attack against one ally is considered an attack against all of them.

Trump has been a strong proponent of military products made by U.S. defense companies.

In December, Jim Mattis resigned as defense secretary. Mattis, who was seen as a reassuring presence by European allies, mentioned NATO twice in his resignation letter and laid bare what he saw as an irreparable divide between himself and Trump.

In the past Trump has called NATO obsolete. He has also pushed NATO allies to spend more on defense and during a NATO meeting in July, told them in a closed-door meeting that governments needed to raise spending to 2 percent of economic output or the United States would go its own way.

Parly also said that a push toward greater European autonomy should not be seen as a move against the United States and should not lead to Washington being less engaged in the region.

Trump lashed out at French President Emmanuel Macron in November, saying it was “very insulting” for him to suggest Europe should create its own army to protect itself from potential adversaries.

Macron had said that Europe needed a real army to reduce reliance on the United States for defense in the face of a resurgent Russia.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by James Dalgleish)

Source: OANN

David Krayden | Ottawa Bureau Chief

New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker said he wants to overturn the Trump administration’s transgender ban in the United States armed forces “when” he becomes president.

“When I am president of the United States, right away I will end this ridiculous, insulting, un-American ban on transgender Americans serving in the military,” Booker said during a Davenport, Iowa, town hall meeting over the weekend.

The senator was asked by one transgender member of the audience about what he planned to do to promote LGBTQ policy if he is elected president in 2020, NBC News reported.

Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) takes a photo with supporters after marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge during the Bloody Sunday commemorative march in Selma, Alabama, U.S. March 3, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry

Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) takes a photo with supporters after marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge during the Bloody Sunday commemorative march in Selma, Alabama, U.S. March 3, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry

Booker also posted a follow-up tweet Monday to his answer at the town hall meeting. (RELATED: Vegan Cory Booker Says Meat Eaters’ Days Are Numbered)

The Democratic presidential candidate tweeted that “Trump’s ban on transgender Americans serving in the military is insulting and deeply un-American. The next president should immediately end this ridiculous policy — if elected, I plan to do so.”

People attend a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's announcement that he plans to reinstate a ban on transgender individuals from serving in any capacity in the U.S. military, in Times Square, in New York City, New York, U.S., July 26, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

People attend a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement that he plans to reinstate a ban on transgender individuals from serving in any capacity in the U.S. military, in Times Square, in New York City, New York, U.S., July 26, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Booker been an active opponent of the Trump administration’s transgender troop policy — since the present publicly declared his intention of changing course in 2017.

Even though the U.S. military has not accepted transgender recruits for most of its history, Booker claimed a ban “flies in the face of the values the United States was built upon” and “undermines our national security,” according to The Hill. (RELATED: ‘Our Planet Is In Peril’: Cory Booker Compares Green New Deal To Fighting Nazi Germany)

At his Iowa town hall, Booker also promised to repeal other parts of the Trump legacy, including the president’s 2017 tax cuts and his policy of deporting some illegal immigrant children who are brought across the U.S. border by their parents, NBC reported.

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Source: The Daily Caller

FILE PHOTO: Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir delivers a speech at the Presidential Palace in Khartoum
FILE PHOTO: Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir delivers a speech at the Presidential Palace in Khartoum, Sudan February 22, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/File Photo

March 18, 2019

By Khalid Abdelaziz

KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Hundreds of protesters, mostly students, took to the streets in and near Sudan’s capital Khartoum on Monday, continuing a three-month wave of demonstrations that has posed the most serious challenge yet to President Omar al-Bashir’s three-decade rule.

Students, activists and other protesters frustrated with economic hardships have held almost daily demonstrations across Sudan since Dec. 19, calling for Bashir to step down.

Police used tear gas on Monday to disperse hundreds of students from Eastern Nile University protesting in Khartoum North, and hundreds of other demonstrators on Sitteen Street, which runs through several upscale neighborhoods, witnesses said.

At least four demonstrators were detained on Monday by security forces in Khartoum 2, an upscale area in the heart of the capital where dozens protested, a Reuters witness said. Security forces used batons to disperse the demonstrators, some of whom torched car tires.

Dozens more protested on a main street in Khartoum’s Riyadh neighborhood.

Police have used tear gas, batons and sometimes live ammunition to break up protests. Officials have confirmed 33 deaths in the unrest since December, but activists say the toll is significantly higher.

Opposition organizers often give the protests a theme for the day – Monday’s were for “student martyrs”. Demonstrations on Sunday, which drew thousands in and near Khartoum, were for “graduates and the unemployed”.

Bashir, who took power in a military coup in 1993, promised during a swearing-in ceremony for a new cabinet last week that he would engage in dialogue with the opposition. The opposition has rejected dialogue with Bashir and has continued to call for him and his government to step aside.

Last month Bashir declared a state of emergency, dissolved the central government, replaced state governors with security officials, expanded police powers and banned unlicensed public gatherings.

That has not stopped the protesters, who have stepped up demonstrations in recent days.

(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Yousef Saba; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Flares are seen in the sky during fighting in the Islamic State's final enclave, in the village of Baghouz
FILE PHOTO: Flares are seen in the sky during fighting in the Islamic State’s final enclave, in the village of Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province, Syria March 11, 2019. REUTERS/Rodi Said/File Photo

March 18, 2019

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Iran and Syria on Monday demanded the United States withdraw its troops from Syria, and the Damascus government threatened to defeat Washington’s Kurdish allies by force if they did not submit to the return of state authority.

The Iranian and Syrian military chiefs were speaking after a meeting in Damascus that also included their Iraqi counterpart, who gave a political boost to President Bashar al-Assad and Tehran by announcing the Syrian border would soon be reopened.

Their remarks point to the risks of a new escalation in Syria after the defeat of Islamic State, with Assad seeking to retake the two major territories outside his control, and the United States working to curb Iranian influence.

Washington has vowed to contain what it calls Tehran’s “destabilising” role in the region, but the entrenched nature of Iran’s ties with both Damascus and Baghdad were on vivid display on Monday.

Standing alongside his Iraqi and Syrian counterparts on live television, Iran’s armed forces chief of staff Major General Mohammad Baqeri said the three countries were “united against terrorism” and coordinating at a high level.

The United States said last month it would keep some forces in Syria, reversing course from an earlier decision to pull them all out once Islamic State is militarily defeated.

It has deployed air power and some ground troops in support of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia that is close to seizing the jihadists’ last enclave in eastern Syria. It also has a military base at Tanf, near the Damascus-Baghdad highway and the Iraq and Syrian frontier.

After Washington in December announced its intention to pull out troops, the Kurdish-led authorities controlling northeast Syria unsuccessfully sought a deal with Damascus to protect their area from a potential Turkish assault.

“The only card remaining in the hands of the Americans and their allies is the SDF, and it will be dealt with through the two methods used by the Syrian state: national reconciliation or the liberation of the areas that they control through force,” Syrian Defence Minister General Ali Abdullah Ayoub said.

Large areas of Syria have been brought back under government control through “reconciliation agreements” that have typically been concluded after the military defeat of rebel forces.

‘READINESS FOR SACRIFICE’

Ayoub noted there was no doubt that U.S. military capabilities were “big and advanced” but said that the Syrian army’s sources of strength included a “readiness for sacrifices” and it was “capable of taking action and having an effect”.

Baqeri said the Damascus meeting had “studied the means that should be taken to recover” territories still outside government hands, including the areas of U.S. deployment, adding the decision in this regard was up to the Syrian state.

Syria’s border crossing with Iraq has been closed for years. The area was overrun by Islamic State in 2014, which swore to eradicate modern nation states and meld them into its self-declared caliphate.

“God willing the coming days will witness the opening of the border crossing and the continuation of visits and trade between the two countries,” Iraqi Lieutenant General Othman al-Ghanimi said at a news conference broadcast by Syrian state television.

Baqeri said opening the border was important to Iran because of trade and for Iranian tourists traveling to Iraq and then Syria. Critics of Iran have voiced concerns over a “land bridge” for Iranian influence to the Mediterranean and the Israeli border.

For Assad, reopening the Iraqi border will accelerate Syria’s physical reintegration with neighboring economies after the opening of the frontier crossing with Jordan last year.

(Reporting by Angus McDowall and Tom Perry, Additional reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh in Geneva, Editing by David Holmes, William Maclean)

Source: OANN

Virginia Kruta | Associate Editor

“Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough asserted that the AR-15 is a “weapon of war” — and in just one tweet, Marine combat veteran Johnny Joey Jones turned the tables on his argument.

In the wake of shootings at two New Zealand mosques over the weekend, there was a renewed call from gun control advocates to ban the AR-15 in the United States.

Scarborough tweeted, “Those suggesting the AR-15 was NOT developed as a weapon of war should read up on history.”

Scarborough went on to insert his own personal interpretation of the Second Amendment as fact, arguing that constitutional protections should not “extend to guns designed as weapons of war.”

But Jones was quick to point out that pretty much all firearms — along with a litany of other things that most people wouldn’t think about — were actually developed primarily for use by the military in a time of war. (RELATED: Double Amputee Johnny Joey Jones Gives Andrew Cuomo A Civics Lesson)

That list included “communication equipment, nautical technology, most cold weather gear, and all our nonperishable foods.”

Jones also could have mentioned duct tape, drones, weather radar, digital cameras, penicillin, synthetic rubber, Jeeps, superglue, epi-pens, sanitary napkins, night vision goggles, aviator sunglasses and the space program — among other things — but Twitter is limited to 280 characters.

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Source: The Daily Caller


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