AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s false claims on migrant child deaths

News

 


Catarina Alonzo Perez, the mother of Felipe Gomez Alonzo, the second Guatemalan child this month to die while in U.S. custody near the Mexican border, pauses during an interview in her home in Yalambojoch, Guatemala, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018. Felipe was chosen to make the journey north with his father because he was the oldest son. It didn’t occur to anyone that the road could be dangerous. “I didn’t think of that, because several families had already left and they made it,” Alonzo said. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump twisted circumstances behind the deaths of two migrant Guatemalan children to insulate his administration from any blame, contending without justification that they were in dire health before they reached the border.

Felipe Gomez Alonzo

Felipe Gomez Alonzo , 8,

The children cleared initial U.S. health screenings and one of them was in the U.S. for five days before suddenly showing signs of illness.

His tweets on the deaths in U.S. custody of a 7-year-old girl and an 8-year old boy were his first words on the subject and came with no expression of remorse for what happened. Instead he said their fate shows why the U.S. needs a wall at the Mexican border

TRUMP: “The two … children in question were very sick before they were given over to Border Patrol. The father of the young girl said it was not their fault, he hadn’t given her water in days. Border Patrol needs the Wall and it will all end.” — tweets Saturday.

THE FACTS: This account is not supported by timelines released by Customs and Border Protection or other sources.

As well, Trump is wrong in saying the father of the girl who died has absolved U.S. officials of responsibility. Through family lawyers, Nery Gilberto Caal Cuz said he made sure his daughter Jakelin had food and water as they traveled through Mexico. The Border Protection timeline on her case says: “The initial screening revealed no evidence of health issues.” And nothing was mentioned about the girl being dehydrated.

The record so far neither establishes that U.S. officials were to blame for the children’s deaths nor clears them of blame, despite Trump’s pronouncement. All the facts are not known, but he rendered what is known inaccurately.

Circumstances are laid out in the Customs and Border Protection accounts of the capture, treatment and deaths of Jakelin Caal, 7, and Felipe Gomez Alonzo , 8, who both came to the border with their fathers:

When Jakelin Caal and her father were caught the evening of Dec. 6, her father described her as in good health and no illness was observed by agents. It’s possible father and daughter did not acknowledge an illness. The next morning, she vomited on a bus waiting to take them to a Border Patrol station, then stopped breathing. Twice revived by Border Patrol personnel, she was then flown by helicopter to an El Paso, Texas, trauma center, went into cardiac arrest and was revived once more. She died Dec. 8 at 12:35 a.m.

Trump’s assertion that both children were very ill before their apprehension is even more flagrantly untethered from the record in the case of Alonzo.

Catarina Alonzo, the boy’s mother, told The Associated Press her son was well and eating chicken after arriving at the U.S. border when she spoke with him by phone.

According to a Border Protection timeline, Felipe and his father, Agustin Gomez, were caught Dec. 18 near El Paso. Agents recorded giving them 23 “welfare checks” — checking on the well-being of father and son — over the next four days. No concern about the boy’s health is noted in the timeline. But on Dec. 24, a day after being transferred to a New Mexico center, the boy was taken to a hospital with a cough and high fever, released after more than five hours with flu medicine, then taken back late that evening. He lost consciousness on the way and doctors could not revive him.

___

BORDER WALL

TRUMP: “I am in the Oval Office & just gave out a 115 mile long contract for another large section of the Wall in Texas.” — tweet Dec. 24.

TRUMP: “Yesterday, I gave out 115 miles’ worth of wall, 115 miles in Texas. It’s going to be built, hopefully rapidly. I’m going there at the end of January for the start of construction.” — remarks to reporters Tuesday.

THE FACTS: He appears to be representing work financed months ago, as new construction. A president cannot simply give out a construction contract. U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers award contracts for border wall construction after Congress approves the money and months have gone into planning.

In March, Congress approved money for 33 miles (53 kilometers) of construction in South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, the busiest corridor for illegal border crossings. The government said in November that construction in the Rio Grande Valley would begin in February. Targeted areas include the nonprofit National Butterfly Center, a state park and privately owned ranches and farmland. Trump’s statement that he plans to visit the site in late January suggests he may be referring to this previously announced construction.

It’s a mystery how he comes up with 115 miles (185 km), and neither the White House nor the Homeland Security Department explained that when asked.

Homeland Security has said the money approved by Congress in March will pay for 84 miles (135 km) altogether along the southern border, including the Texas stretch. If the Trump administration got the entire $5 billion it’s requested from Congress, the administration says that would be enough to build 215 miles (346 km) of barrier.

What’s not a mystery is that Trump has repeatedly exaggerated what’s been accomplished on his campaign promise to build a wall sealing the border with Mexico.

___

MILITARY PAY

TRUMP: “You just got one of the biggest pay raises you ever received. Unless you don’t want it. Does anybody here? Is anybody here willing to give up the big pay raise you just got? I don’t see too many hands. Ah, OK. Don’t give it up. It’s great. You know what? Nobody deserves it more. You haven’t gotten one in more than 10 years. More than 10 years. And we got you a big one. I got you a big one.” — remarks prompting cheers from troops Wednesday at al-Asad Air Base in Iraq.

THE FACTS: He’s wrong about there being no pay increase for service members in more than 10 years and about their raise being especially large. U.S. military members have gotten a pay raise every year for decades. As well, several in the last 10 years have been larger than service members are getting now — 2.4 percent this year and 2.6 percent in 2019. Raises in 2008, 2009 and 2010, for example, were all 3.4 percent or more.

Trump has repeatedly told service members that they’re getting the biggest or only pay raise that they have received in 10 years or more. In May, for example, he told graduates of the United States Naval Academy: “We just got you a big pay raise. First time in 10 years.”

___

TRUMP: “You had plenty of people, they came up, they said, you know we could make it smaller. We could make it 3 percent, we could make it 2 percent, we could make it 4 percent. I said, ‘no, make it 10 percent — make it more than 10 percent.’” — remarks Wednesday at al-Asad base.

THE FACTS: Whatever he might have said at the time, the 2.6 percent for 2019 obviously falls far short of the 10 percent or more that he implied was achieved.

___

IRAN

TRUMP: “For all of the sympathizers out there of Brett McGurk remember, he was the Obama appointee who was responsible for loading up airplanes with 1.8 Billion Dollars in CASH & sending it to Iran as part of the horrific Iran Nuclear Deal (now terminated) approved by Little Bob Corker.” — tweet Monday.

THE FACTS: There are three or more things wrong with this short tweet as he takes a slap at a retiring Republican senator who criticized him, Bob Corker of Tennessee, and a U.S. official who resigned in protest against Trump’s plan to pull troops from Syria, Brett McGurk.

First, Corker was no architect of the 2015 deal between world powers and Iran. He was a leading critic of it in Congress.

He argued at the time that President Barack Obama should have made the pact a treaty subject to approval by the Senate. When Obama didn’t do that, Corker helped fellow senators write legislation that subjected the accord to periodic congressional review. The legislation would have blocked the deal if that effort got enough votes. It didn’t. Obama brought the deal into effect, not Congress.

Corker has sharply criticized Trump, calling him “utterly untruthful” and responsible for “the debasing of our nation.”

Second, branding McGurk an “Obama appointee” is misleading. The veteran diplomat bridges administrations. Republican President George W. Bush appointed him as a senior aide for Iraq and Afghanistan. During the negotiations for the Iran nuclear deal by the Obama administration, McGurk led secret side talks with Tehran on the release of Americans imprisoned there. He is Trump’s envoy to the coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Syria, but quitting in protest of the troop withdrawal.

As for cash flown to Iran, that’s true, though Trump is off on the amount and leaves out important context: The money was a debt owed to Tehran, which bought military equipment from the U.S. that it never received because relations ruptured when the shah was overthrown in 1979. A cargo plane took $400 million, representing the principal, to the Iranians. The remaining $1.3 billion, representing interest accrued over nearly 40 years, was transferred separately.

The diplomatic break meant that a variety of debts between the two countries went uncollected and became the subject of international arbitration. As part of that process, Iran paid settlements of more than $2.5 billion to U.S. citizens and businesses over the years.

___

Associated Press writers Nomaan Merchant in Houston and Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.

Border Protection information on Jakelin Caal: https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/statement-us-customs-and-border-protection-death-seven-year-old

Border Protection information on Felipe Gomez Alonzo: https://www.dhs.gov/news/2018/12/25/cbp-shares-additional-information-about-recent-passing-guatemalan-child

Find AP Fact Checks at http://apne.ws/2kbx8bd

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Scrutiny, criticism of ICE come with immigration enforcement – AP

international News

By COLLEEN LONG

In this Oct. 22, 2018, photo U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents surround and detain a person during a raid in Richmond, Va. ICE’s enforcement and removal operations, like the five-person field office team outside Richmond, hunt people in the U.S. illegally, some of whom have been here for decades, working and raising families. Carrying out President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration policies has exposed ICE to unprecedented public scrutiny and criticism, even though officers say they’re doing largely the same job they did before the election, prioritizing criminals. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The officers suit up in the pre-dawn darkness, wrapping on body armor, snapping in guns, pulling on black sweat shirts that read POLICE and ICE.

They gather around a conference table in an ordinary office in a nondescript office park in the suburbs, going over their targets for the day: two men, both with criminal histories. Top of the list is a man from El Salvador convicted of drunken driving.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s enforcement and removal operations, like the five-person field office team outside Richmond, hunt people in the U.S. illegally, some of whom have been here for decades, working and raising families. Carrying out President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration policies has exposed ICE to unprecedented public scrutiny and criticism, even though officers say they’re doing largely the same job they did before the election — prioritizing criminals.

But they have also stepped up arrests of people who have no U.S. criminal records. It is those stories of ICE officers arresting dads and grandmothers that pepper local news. Officers are heckled and videotaped. Some Democratic politicians have called for ICE to be abolished.

ICE employees have been threatened at their homes, their personal data exposed online, officials said.

“There is a tension around ‘It could be that somebody could find out what I do and hate me for it or do worse than hate me for it,’” Ronald Vitiello, acting head of the agency, told The Associated Press.

Vitiello said the agency is monitoring social media and giving employees resources for when they feel threatened.

ICE, formed after the Sept. 11 attacks, had been told under the Obama administration to focus on removing immigrants who had committed crimes. Trump, in one of his first moves in office, directed his administration to target anyone in the country illegally.

Government data back up that ICE is still mostly targeting people convicted of a crime. But the data also show the agency has greatly ramped up arrests of people who were accused of a crime but not convicted, and increased arrests solely on immigration violations.

ICE arrested 32,977 people accused of crimes and 20,464 with immigration violations during the budget year 2018. There were 105,140 arrests of someone with a criminal conviction and 158,581 arrests overall. The most frequent criminal conviction was for drunken driving, followed by drug and traffic offenses.


Major US newspapers hit by cyberattack, disrupting printing and distribution

News, Terrorism
Los Angeles Times

By Mark Wycislik-Wilson

A number of major US newspapers — including the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal and New York Times — have been hit by a cyberattack that is said to originate from another country.

Malware was first detected on Thursday by Tribune Publishing, the owner of some of the affected titles, but unsuccessful attempts at quarantining meant that there was disruption well into Saturday. The Department of Homeland Security is currently investigating the incident which is not thought to have exposed any personal customer details.

Writing about the malware attack, the Los Angeles Times explains: “Technology teams worked feverishly to quarantine the computer virus, but it spread through Tribune Publishing’s network and reinfected systems crucial to the news production and printing process. Multiple newspapers around the country were affected because they share a production platform”.

An anonymous source is quoted as saying that the attack was launched from outside the US, but it is not clear whether it was the action of an individual, or an enemy state:

We believe the intention of the attack was to disable infrastructure, more specifically servers, as opposed to looking to steal information.

The attack appears to take the form of the Ryuk ransomware, but more will not be known until the investigation proceeds. DHS spokeswoman Katie Waldman said:

We are aware of reports of a potential cyber incident affecting several news outlets, and are working with our government and industry partners to better understand the situation.

In a statement issued on behalf of Tribune Publishing, spokeswoman Marisa Kollias said: “There is no evidence that customer credit card information or personally identifiable information has been compromised”.

Source: Beta News

NBA Roundup

sports

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Piston) scored 26 to key a 121-114 win over the Sacramento Kings on Sunday night. The Lakers ended the game on an 18-4 run after trailing late, with Brandon Ingram (21 points and nine assists) making big shots down the stretch.

Josh Hart also added 22 points, allowing the Lakers (21-16) to avenge their one-point loss to the Kings three days earlier.


Josh Hart

James missed his third straight game with a groin strain ( https://ak-static.cms.nba.com/referee/injury/Injury-Report_2018-12-29_05PM.pdf ) , but it was the first time in 14 games dating back to 2016 that his team won without him, per Micah Adams ( https://twitter.com/MicahAdams13/status/1078894505489850368 )  of NBA ( http://bleacherreport.com/nba ) .com.

The Kings fell to 19-17 on the season despite 26 points from De’Aaron Fox.

De’Aaron Fox Deserves Spot on All-Star Roster

The Western Conference is loaded with the best basketball players in the world, but Fox deserves a spot among those players in the All-Star Game based on the way he has played to this point.

No one expected the Kings to be in the playoff hunt this late into the season after going 12 straight years without a winning record, but they have kept pace heading into 2019 thanks mostly to the play of their point guard.

Even while seemingly dealing with shoulder problems and foul trouble, Fox still had a good night with 26 points, seven assists, four rebounds and three steals. The Kings were even while he was on the court despite the seven-point loss.

He once again showed a knack for producing highlight plays in many phases of the game:

> Sacramento Kings @SacramentoKingsSwipaVision™️ https://t.co/67X8RFEGNv
>

> Sacramento Kings @SacramentoKings🦊

💥

> Sacramento Kings @SacramentoKingsA 🦊 always stays ready… https://t.co/iGnQiD8qHb
>

Perhaps just as important for him, he outdueled Lonzo Ball, a personal rival since they were both top recruits in high school.

Fox has been playing at this level all year long, entering the day averaging 18.0 points, 7.7 assists and 1.7 steals per game. The only players to match these numbers so far this season are James Harden ( https://twitter.com/SacramentoKings/status/1079581321196752896 ) , Russell Westbrook ( http://bleacherreport.com/russell-westbrook )  and Jrue Holiday, per Basketball Reference ( https://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/psl_finder.cgi?request=1&match=single&type=per_game&per_minute_base=36&per_poss_base=100&season_start=1&season_end=-1&lg_id=NBA&age_min=0&age_max=99&is_playoffs=N&height_min=0&height_max=99&year_min=2019&year_max=2019&birth_country_is=Y&as_comp=gt&as_val=0&pos_is_g=Y&pos_is_gf=Y&pos_is_f=Y&pos_is_fg=Y&pos_is_fc=Y&pos_is_c=Y&pos_is_cf=Y&c1stat=pts_per_g&c1comp=gt&c1val=18&c2stat=ast_per_g&c2comp=gt&c2val=7.7&c3stat=stl_per_g&c3comp=gt&c3val=1.6&order_by=ws ) .

He has also taken his game to another level as of late. Taking away his six-minute game against the Timberwolves earlier this month, he averaged 21.3 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.5 steals over his last 11 games.

The 21-year-old remains a threat every night as someone who can carry the offense with his scoring or keep the offense flowing with his passing while also playing shutdown defense on the perimeter.

> Jason  Jones @mr_jasonjonesDe’Aaron Fox’s speed shows up in so many ways on both ends. How he snuck in for that last steal and score was ridiculous
>

While Buddy Hield has played well this season and just about everyone on the roster has exceeded expectations, Fox is the most valuable player on this team and one of the best on the floor every night.

DeMarcus Cousins ( https://twitter.com/mr_jasonjones/status/1079580106647990274 )  has been the only Kings All-Star in the last 10 years, and that was because he put up numbers no one could ignore. While Fox doesn’t have this type of production on paper, he has helped his team win and is playing at an All-Star level.

If he can keep this up, he should be in Charlotte next February.

What’s Next?

The Lakers will continue their homestand Wednesday with a matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Kings will play on New Year’s Day while hosting the Portland Trail Blazers.

This article will be updated to provide more information soon.

NBA News
via Bleacher Report – NBA http://bit.ly/2gMI6gF

US university’s 44th list of words it would like to banish

News

Lake Superior State University’s 44th annual list of words nominated for banishment by members of the public:

–Wheelhouse

— In the books

— Wrap my head around

— Platform

— Collusion

— OTUS family of acronyms (such as POTUS, FLOTUS, SCOTUS)

— Ghosting

— Yeet

— Litigate

— Grapple

— Eschew

— Crusty

— Optics

— Legally drunk

–Thought leader

— Unpack

— Importantly

— Accoutrements

— Most important election of our time

Associated Press

Trump asks 7-year-old, ‘Are you still a believer in Santa?’

Celebrity Gists

By Eric Levenson, CNN

At what age do children wonder whether Santa really exists?President Donald Trump would like to know.In a Christmas Eve call, Trump asked a 7-year-old named Coleman whether the child still believes in Santa Claus.”Are you still a believer in Santa? Because at 7, it’s marginal, right?”

Trump asked Coleman.Coleman’s response, though inaudible to the press, left Trump with a chuckle and a smile.The call came around 6:30 p.m. Monday as the President and first lady Melania Trump spoke on separate phones to children whose calls to NORAD had been patched through to the White House lines.

The Trumps answer calls from people to the NORAD Santa tracker phone line Monday at the White House.

The Trumps answer calls from people to the NORAD Santa tracker phone line Monday at the White House.In front of a crackling fire and between two Christmas trees, Trump wished Coleman a Merry Christmas and asked the child’s age and Christmas plans and wondered how school was going.”Well, honey, happy Christmas, and you just take care of yourself and say hello to your family, OK? Say hello to everybody,” Trump said.In another phone call, Trump took a child’s belief in Santa as a given.”What’s Santa going to get you for Christmas?” he asked, according to pool reports. “Have a great Christmas, and I’ll talk to you again, OK?”Melania Trump said on Twitter that helping children track Santa “is becoming one of my favorite traditions!” The couple participated in phone calls last year as well.

View image on Twitter
View image on Twitter
View image on Twitter

Melania Trump@FLOTUS

Helping children across the country track #Santa is becoming one of my favorite traditions! @Potus and I enjoyed working with @NORADSanta#ChristmasEve92.2K7:13 PM – Dec 24, 201834.5K people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacyNORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, has made a tradition of using its radar system to track Santa on his trip around the globe every Christmas Eve.The tradition, which began with a phone line mix-up in 1955, continued this year despite the ongoing government shutdown.

CNN’s Aaron Pellish contributed to this report.

China prepares mission to land spacecraft on moon’s far side

Middle East, Tech
moon
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

China was preparing to launch a ground-breaking mission early Saturday to soft-land a spacecraft on the largely unexplored far side of the moon, demonstrating its growing ambitions as a space power to rival Russia, the European Union and U.S.

With its Chang’e 4 mission, China hopes to be the first country to ever successfully undertake such a landing. The moon’s far side is also known as the dark side because it faces away from Earth and remains comparatively unknown, with a different composition from sites on the near side, where previous missions have landed.

If successful, the mission scheduled to blast off aboard a Long March 3B rocket will propel the Chinese space program to a leading position in one of the most important areas of lunar exploration.

China landed its Yutu, or “Jade Rabbit.” rover on the moon five years ago and plans to send its Chang’e 5 probe there next year and have it return to Earth with samples—the first time that will have been done since 1976. A crewed lunar mission is also under consideration.

Chang’e 4 is also a lander-rover combination and will explore both above and below the lunar surface after arriving at the South Pole-Aitken basin’s Von Karman crater following a 27-day journey.

It will also perform radio-astronomical studies that, because the far side always faces away from Earth, will be “free from interference from our planet’s ionosphere, human-made radio frequencies and auroral radiation noise,” space industry expert Leonard David wrote on the website Space.com.

It may also carry plant seeds and silkworm eggs, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

Chang’e is the goddess of the moon in Chinese mythology.

China conducted its first crewed space mission in 2003, making it only the third country after Russia and the U.S. to do so. It has put a pair of space stations into orbit, one of which is still operating as a precursor to a more than 60-ton station that is due to come online in 2022. The launch of a Mars rover is planned for the mid-2020s.

To facilitate communication between controllers on Earth and the Chang’e 4 mission, China in May launched a relay satellite named Queqiao, or “Magpie Bridge,” after an ancient Chinese folk tale.

China’s space program has benefited from cooperation with Russia and European nations, although it was excluded from the 420-ton International Space Station, mainly due to U.S. legislation barring such cooperation amid concerns over its strong military connections. Its program also suffered a rare setback last year with the dialed launch of its Long March 5 rocket.

China’s latest mission closely follows the touchdown of NASA’s InSight spacecraft on Mars on Monday, at a site less than 400 miles (640 kilometers) from the American rover Curiosity, the only other working robot on Mars.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-12-china-mission-spacecraft-moon-side.html#jCp

North Korea warns U.S. as it suspends South Korea talks over military drills — FOX2now.com

News

WASHINGTON — North Korea says the US should carefully consider the fate of the North Korea-US summit, in view of what it calls “provocative military disturbances with South Korea,” North Korea’s state news agency reported early Wednesday local time.

WASHINGTON — North Korea says the US should carefully consider the fate of the North Korea-US summit, in view of what it calls “provocative military disturbances with South Korea,” North Korea’s state news agency reported early Wednesday local time.

The warning comes as KCNA reported North Korea has suspended talks with South Korea because of a joint military drill conducted by South Korea and the US.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert defended joint US-South Korean military exercises Tuesday and said the US had not heard of any disruptions to either the planned exercises or the upcoming summit.

While media reports were just emerging as she took the briefing room podium, Nauert said, “We have not heard anything from that government or the government of South Korea to indicate that we would not continue conducting these exercises or that we would not continue planning for our meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un next month.”

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” she cautioned to reporters. “This news just came out. We need to verify it to get additional information on that but we’re going forward in planning our meetings next month.”

A senior administration official told CNN that President Donald Trump has been alerted to the warning about the fate of the June 12 summit in Singapore and that the White House is preparing a response.

Meetings are underway now between White House officials, the National Security Council and Defense Department, the official said.

Talks between the Koreas were set to resume Wednesday.

The KCNA report said the Max Thunder 2018 air combat drill was against the Panmunjom declaration — signed last month between the Koreas — wherein they agreed to cease all hostile acts against each other.

KCNA labeled the Max Thunder drills a “deliberate provocation.”

Back in March, when South Korea’s national security adviser told reporters at the White House that Kim had invited Trump to meet, he also said that Kim “understands that the routine joint military exercises between the Republic of Korea and the United States must continue.”

via North Korea warns U.S. as it suspends South Korea talks over military drills — FOX2now.com

What Is Kim Jong-un’s Game? By Jean-Pierre Cabestan -NYTimes Opinion

Military, News

Mr. Cabestan is a China expert based in East Asia for more than two decades.

akim.jpgHONG KONG — The immediate causes of the recent diplomatic breakthrough on the Korean Peninsula are well known: stronger international sanctions against North Korea, approved by even China and Russia, and President Trump’s bellicose response to the recent intensification of nuclear and missile tests under Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader since 2011.

But a more fundamental driver is being overlooked: China’s growing ambition to dominate East Asia. Mr. Kim’s apparent move to reconcile with his South Korean counterpart, President Moon Jae-in, is above all a gambit to get closer to America to keep China in check. He hopes to reduce North Korea’s overarching economic dependence on China and curb Beijing’s aspirations to control the future of the Korean Peninsula. After another surprise meeting between Mr. Kim and President Xi Jinping of China on Tuesday, the second in two months, the Trump administration announced on Wednesday that North Korea would release three American prisoners.

The regime’s survival and security have long been the Kim family’s top priority, with political independence not far behind; those are the prime reasons it has sought to develop North Korea’s nuclear weapons and long-range missile capability. That purpose has also been served by political purges, notably the killing in late 2013 of Mr. Kim’s uncle Jang Song-thaek, who was suspected of entertaining especially close relations with China, and in early 2017 of Mr. Kim’s half brother Kim Jong-nam, another Beijing protégé and once an heir apparent to Kim Jong-il, the country’s previous leader and Mr. Kim’s father.

Now that these pressing existential objectives seem to have been satisfied, economic development has become the crux of the regime’s long-term stability. It is no coincidence, for example, that last month the Workers’ Party of Korea abruptly decided to abandon its well-established policy of byungjin — the simultaneous advancement of the country’s military, particularly its nuclear program, and its economy — to refocus entirely on economic development.

But how best to do that? With more than 90 percent of North Korea’s trade already dependent on China, moving even closer to Beijing would risk turning North Korea into an appendage or tributary state — a dream for some Chinese nationalists but the nightmare of almost every North Korean. Integrating with South Korea would undermine the primacy of the Kim family in the North. In theory, Russia could help reduce North Korea’s dependence on China for oil and gas, but little else. So Mr. Kim’s best option to boost the North Korean economy is to diversify its partnerships and open up to the West and Japan.

Moving the country closer to the United States and further from China is also sound strategy from a security point of view. China may not openly threaten North Korea’s independence, but its ambition to better control its near abroad — in Southeast Asia, around the South China Sea, through its One Belt, One Road initiative — can only breed serious suspicions in Pyongyang. (There seems to have been no talk of reactivating the old Sino-North Korean alliance or the two countries’ long-forgotten mutual defense treaty.) Mr. Kim’s overture to Mr. Trump to fend off China today is not unlike Mao’s reaching out to President Richard Nixon to hold back the Soviet threat in the early 1970s.

This development, however implausible or sudden it may seem, should come as no surprise, especially in a part of the world where state leaders tend to be realists in international affairs. And Mr. Kim may be the most realist of them all.

None of this is to say that China will soon be “sidelined,” as some have speculated. Beijing will always be part of the picture, and sometimes part of the problem. The point is simply that China’s neighbors are repositioning themselves as it becomes stronger and tries to establish hierarchical or clientelist relations with them. Some, like Cambodia and Laos, comply. Others, like Vietnam and Singapore, try to push back or at least rebalance. North Korea, too, must recalibrate and hedge.

It does so from a special posture, of course, because of its nuclear program and diplomatic isolation — and because of many remaining uncertainties about its intentions, including over a matter as fundamental as what it means by “denuclearization.” Still, Mr. Kim’s unexpected offer to meet President Trump and Mr. Trump’s quick acceptance suggest that both leaders see in this moment an opportunity for some measure of détente. About that much at least they are correct.

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Lifting sanctions, normalizing relations, starting to trade — these things may not materialize soon, or ever. But the strategic landscape on the Korean Peninsula already has changed, and it has changed in favor of America and its allies.

Mr. Kim’s two sudden and unannounced meetings with Mr. Xi recently are, more than anything, a remarkable diplomatic show, mainly designed to allow China to save face. During the five years that he has been in power, Mr. Xi has seemed to largely ignore Mr. Kim; he may now regret that approach. As China’s power has risen, America’s has declined, persuading North Korea to move closer to the United States and seek from it security guarantees.

Skeptics will doubt that North Korea, given its ideology, can really move in this direction; optimists may now see the reunification of the Korean Peninsula on the horizon. I think that North Korea’s one-party system will remain in place for a long while and that in the meantime the country’s human rights situation will continue to be dire. Nor will improved relations between the two Koreas, or even the conclusion of a peace treaty, lead to any kind of reunification. Any such thing would be suicidal for Pyongyang and too costly for Seoul.

Yet I also think that this moment is indeed a rare opportunity for both America and America’s allies to improve relations with North Korea — and work with it to establish a new balance of power in Northeast Asia that can offset China’s ambition to dominate the region and better serve the interests of the West.

This article has been updated to reflect news developments.

Jean-Pierre Cabestan is a professor and head of the department of government and international studies at Hong Kong Baptist Universit

Boko Haram will take years to ‘eliminate’: UN envoy

Boko Haram, News

File: AFP

Despite military successes scored against Boko Haram jihadists, it will take years to “completely eliminate” the group, a United Nations envoy told AFP Tuesday.

“Boko Haram has proven to be a resilient group…I think it will take time to totally eliminate,” said Muhammad Ibn Chambas, special envoy to the UN secretary general for West Africa and the Sahel.

“What we are seeing is that Boko Haram has become part of an international terrorism network.”

Chambas was speaking on the sidelines of a Lake Chad regional summit in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state and birthplace of Boko Haram.

Governors from four countries straddling the lake – Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon – are meeting for two days to discuss regional co-operation on stabilisation, peace building and sustainable development in the area.

His remarks come at a time the Nigerian government and military is insisting that the war against Boko Haram is over, despite a recent spate of attacks by the extremists.

On May 1 at least 86 people were killed in twin suicide attacks targeting a mosque and a nearby market in the town of Mubi in Adamawa state.

Chambas said that the Islamist insurgents were likely still holding on to territory in the region.

“It is relative,” he said in response to reports that Boko Haram was holding territory in the northeast states of Yobe and Borno.

“As long as they are not totally defeated obviously they are present in some areas”.

The Islamist insurgency has killed at least 20 000 people in nine years of violence that has spilled from northeast Nigeria into Niger, Chad and Cameroon, creating a dire humanitarian crisis.

The four countries formed the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) to fight the Islamic extremists who criss-cross the porous borders in the remote region.

Chambas commended the MNJTF counter terrorism fight as “appreciably successful” but warned it was far from over.

“We of course ask that the MNJTF remains vigilant in its fight against Boko Haram, we cannot take it for granted and assume they have been totally defeated”.

In December 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari declared Boko Haram had been “technically defeated” after reclaiming swathes of territory back from the jihadists.

But claims that the jihadists are a spent force have been put under scrutiny as the jihadists continued to launch deadly suicide and gun attacks on military and civilian targets

ICE held an American man in custody for 1,273 days. He’s not the only one who had to prove his citizenship — Later On

News

The ICE is increasingly like the Gestapo. Paige St. John and Joel Rubin report in the LA Times: Immigration officers in the United States operate under a cardinal rule: Keep your hands off Americans. But Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents repeatedly target U.S. citizens for deportation by mistake, making wrongful arrests based on incomplete government records, bad […]

ice-ice-babyjpg-0bdb84b31ebc6687.jpgImmigration officers in the United States operate under a cardinal rule: Keep your hands off Americans.

But Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents repeatedly target U.S. citizens for deportation by mistake, making wrongful arrests based on incomplete government records, bad data and lax investigations, according to a Times review of federal lawsuits, internal ICE documents and interviews.

Since 2012, ICE has released from its custody more than 1,480 people after investigating their citizenship claims, according to agency figures. And a Times review of Department of Justice records and interviews with immigration attorneys uncovered hundreds of additional cases in the country’s immigration courts in which people were forced to prove they are Americans and sometimes spent months or even years in detention.

Victims include a landscaper snatched in a Home Depot parking lot in Rialto and held for days despite his son’s attempts to show agents the man’s U.S. passport; a New York resident locked up for more than three years fighting deportation efforts after a federal agent mistook his father for someone who wasn’t a U.S. citizen; and a Rhode Island housekeeper mistakenly targeted twice, resulting in her spending a night in prison the second time even though her husband had brought her U.S. passport to a court hearing.

They and others described the panic and feeling of powerlessness that set in as agents took them into custody without explanation and ignored their claims of citizenship.

atruThe wrongful arrests account for a small fraction of the more than 100,000 arrests ICE makes each year, and it’s unclear whether the Trump administration’s aggressive push to increase deportations will lead to more mistakes. But the detentions of U.S. citizens amount to an unsettling type of collateral damage in the government’s effort to remove illegal or unwanted immigrants.

The errors reveal flaws in the way ICE identifies people for deportation, including its reliance on databases that are incomplete and plagued by mistakes. The wrongful arrests also highlight a presumption that pervades U.S. immigration agencies and courts that those born outside the United States are not here legally unless electronic records show otherwise. And when mistakes are not quickly remedied, citizens are forced into an immigration court system where they must fight to prove they should not be removed from the country, often without the help of an attorney.

The Times found that the two groups most vulnerable to becoming mistaken ICE targets are the children of immigrants and citizens born outside the country.

Matthew Albence, the head of ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations, declined to be interviewed but said in a written statement that investigating citizen claims can be a complex task involving searches of electronic and paper records as well as personal interviews. He said ICE updates records when errors are found and agents arrest only those they have probable cause to suspect are eligible for deportation.

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement takes very seriously any and all assertions that an individual detained in its custody may be a U.S. citizen,” he said.

But The Times’ review of federal documents and lawsuits turned up cases in which Americans were arrested based on mistakes or cursory ICE investigations and some who were repeatedly targeted because the government failed to update its records. Immigration lawyers said federal agents rarely conduct interviews before making arrests and getting ICE to correct its records is difficult.


A big mistake

Sergio Carrillo had already been handcuffed in the Home Depot parking lot in Rialto on a July morning in 2016 when an officer in Homeland Security uniform appeared.

“Homeland Security?” Carrillo asked. “What do you want with me?”

Ignoring Carrillo’s demands for an explanation, the officer ordered the 39-year-old landscaper taken to a federal detention facility in downtown Los Angeles.

“You’re making a big mistake,” Carrillo recalled saying from the back seat to the officers driving him. “I am a U.S. citizen.” . . .

via ICE held an American man in custody for 1,273 days. He’s not the only one who had to prove his citizenship — Later On

‘Defective at its core’: Trump withdraws U.S. from Iran nuclear deal, reimposes sanctions — Financial Post

News

West Texas Intermediate crude briefly pared losses as Trump announced his decision

U.S. President Donald Trump said the U.S. will withdraw from the landmark 2015 accord to curb Iran’s nuclear program and reinstate financial sanctions on the Islamic Republic, opening an uncertain new chapter for the Middle East.

His decision, widely anticipated by allies and analysts before his announcement Tuesday at the White House, was intended to force Iran to renegotiate an agreement the country’s leaders have said they will not revisit. Trump’s political opponents warned he could lead the U.S. into another Mideast war.

“The fact is this was a horrible one-sided deal that should have never ever been made,” Trump said. “We cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement. The Iran deal is defective at its core.”

West Texas Intermediate crude briefly pared losses as Trump announced his decision. The price for June deliveries of the commodity fell US$1.32 to US$69.41 a barrel at 2:28 p.m. in New York.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who personally lobbied Trump to remain in the deal during a state visit to Washington last month, said on Twitter that “France, Germany, and the UK regret the U.S. decision to leave the JCPOA,” using an acronym for the agreement.

“The nuclear non-proliferation regime is at stake,” he said.

Trump has long criticized the Iran deal, negotiated under his predecessor Barack Obama, as the “worst” ever. He has complained that it doesn’t address threats from the country’s ballistic missile program or its involvement in fomenting regional conflicts, and that provisions of the deal that expire in the next decade would allow Iran to resume nuclear work.

“If I allowed this deal to stand, there would soon be a nuclear arms race in the Middle East,” Trump said. “Everyone would want their weapons ready by the time Iran had theirs.”

He said that because of limits on international inspectors, they are “not able to prevent, detect or punish cheating” by Iran and “don’t have the unqualified right to inspect many important locations” including military bases.

U.S .President Donald Trump speaks to the press after signing a document reinstating sanctions against Iran after announcing the US withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear deal, in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., on May 8, 2018.
U.S .President Donald Trump speaks to the press after signing a document reinstating sanctions against Iran after announcing the US withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear deal, in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., on May 8, 2018.

Trump said in a tweet on Monday that he would announce his decision ahead of a May 12 deadline set by U.S. law to continue waiving U.S. sanctions lifted by the accord. The U.S. will be instituting the “highest level” of sanctions against Iran, Trump said.

The Treasury Department said in a statement that sanctions would be reinstated after “wind-down periods” of 90 or 180 days. Nuclear-related sanctions that had been waived under the deal would take full effect after Nov. 4, the department said.

Oil prices have climbed in recent weeks as uncertainty over the future of the agreement rose. A resumption of U.S. sanctions would threaten Iran’s ability to attract foreign investment, keeping the country’s output flat or lower through 2025, according to a research note published Monday by Barclays.

It is unclear what may unfold following the U.S. withdrawal. American and European diplomats have sought to negotiate side agreements aimed at addressing Trump’s concerns about the deal, and the delay in reinstating sanctions may allow those talks to continue — a prospect that Iran’s ally Russia, a party to the accord, raised ahead of Trump’s announcement.

Russia’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mikhail Ulyanov, said the Iran deal wouldn’t end immediately as a result of Trump’s action and “we will have a certain amount of time for diplomatic efforts,” according to the Interfax news service.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani suggested his country would continue to abide by the agreement, but that it was now between Iran and the five other signatories — not the U.S.

Last-Ditch Efforts

Diplomats engaged in the talks on side deals had signalled that they were close to a breakthrough, but key allies have been skeptical that Trump would remain part of the current pact, which curbs Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for relaxing Western financial sanctions. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel signalled after meeting with Trump last month that he seemed intent on quitting the agreement.

Ali Shamkhani, secretary general of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, was reported to say Tuesday that “if the U.S. initiates confrontation with Iran, we won’t stay passive.”If the nuclear agreement “gets destroyed due to the U.S. assault, for sure it won’t be to their benefit,” he said, adding that the “biggest loss will be for the Europeans.”

EU trade with Iran has nearly tripled since 2015.

Following the visits by Merkel and Macron, U.K. Foreign Minister Boris Johnson was in Washington this week to make a last-ditch argument to persuade Trump to remain in the accord, arguing that it is flawed but can be improved by the side agreements.

Johnson met this week with Vice President Mike Pence, National Security Adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other administration and congressional officials.

Trump foreshadowed his decision on Monday, complaining on Twitter about the Iran agreement and deriding former Secretary of State John Kerry for meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif two weeks ago at the United Nations to discuss salvaging the deal. “He was the one that created this MESS in the first place!” Trump said of Kerry.

Saturday Deadline

Under legislation passed by Congress, Trump has until Saturday to decide whether to keep waiving sanctions on banks of foreign countries that haven’t reduced Iranian oil imports, according to an analysis by the Congressional Research Service. Under that law, those sanctions have to be waived every 120 days.

Trump last agreed to waive the sanctions in January, but his frustration with the agreement has only grown since then. Declining to waive the restrictions again means an assessment of whether foreign countries are violating the sanctions would be due Nov. 8, according to the CRS study.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that the 2015 accord is fatally flawed and must be “fully fixed or nixed” to stop Iranian aggression sooner rather than later. His comments came as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned that the U.S. would face “historic” regret if it pulled out.

Netanyahu’s Role

Netanyahu delivered a televised presentation last week on secret Iranian files his country’s intelligence services obtained that he said prove that Tehran sought to build a nuclear weapon in the past despite its government’s denials. Trump watched the presentation, and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement declaring that the Israeli intelligence proved “Iran has a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program.”

The White House later corrected the statement online to say Iran “had” a nuclear program, blaming a clerical error. Netanyahu did not claim that Iran currently has a nuclear program.

Members of Trump’s own party are split. Representative Mac Thornberry, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said Sunday he “would counsel against” Trump quitting the accord. Representative Ed Royce, who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, agreed, saying in a statement Tuesday, “I fear a withdrawal would actually set back these efforts” to stop Iran’s nuclear activities.

But House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has said he’s “very comfortable” that the president is standing up to Iran.

Bloomberg.com

via ‘Defective at its core’: Trump withdraws U.S. from Iran nuclear deal, reimposes sanctions — Financial Post

Donald Trump: The U.S. Will Withdraw From the Iran Nuclear Deal — Fortune

News

Trump said he would also reinstate financial sanctions on the Islamic Republic

President Donald Trump said the U.S. will withdraw from the landmark 2015 accord to curb Iran’s nuclear program and that he would reinstate financial sanctions on the Islamic Republic, casting the Mideast into a new period of uncertainty.

“The fact is this was a horrible one-sided deal that should have never ever been made,” Trump said at the White House. “We cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement. The Iran deal is defective at its core.”

West Texas Intermediate crude fell as much as 4.4 percent after CNN reported that Trump was expected to allow sanctions to go forward on Iran but may not completely pull out of the accord. The commodity was down about 3 percent ahead of the announcement.

The president has long criticized the Iran deal, negotiated under his predecessor Barack Obama, as the “worst” ever. He has complained it doesn’t address threats from the country’s ballistic missile program or its involvement in regional conflicts, and that provisions of the deal that expire in the next decade would allow Iran to resume some nuclear work.

Trump said in a tweet on Monday that he would announce his decision at 2 p.m. Tuesday in Washington, ahead of a May 12 deadline set by U.S. law to continue waiving U.S. sanctions lifted by the accord.

Oil prices have climbed in recent weeks as uncertainty over the future of the agreement rose. A resumption of U.S. sanctions would threaten Iran’s ability to attract foreign investment, keeping the country’s output flat or lower through 2025, according to a research note published Monday by Barclays.

It is unclear what may unfold after Trump’s announcement. American and European diplomats have sought to negotiate side agreements aimed at addressing his concerns about the deal. Even the immediate reimposition of sanctions would take time to resolve, as there would be no accounting of violations before November, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Russia’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mikhail Ulyanov, said the Iran deal wouldn’t end immediately as a result of Trump’s action and “we will have a certain amount of time for diplomatic efforts,” according to the Interfax news service.

Last-Ditch Efforts

Diplomats engaged in the talks on side deals had signaled that they were close to a breakthrough, but key allies have been skeptical that Trump would remain part of the current pact, which curbs Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for relaxing Western financial sanctions. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel signaled after meeting with Trump last month that he seemed intent on quitting the agreement.

Ali Shamkhani, secretary general of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, was reported to say Tuesday that “if the U.S. initiates confrontation with Iran, we won’t stay passive.”If the nuclear agreement “gets destroyed due to the U.S. assault, for sure it won’t be to their benefit,” he said, adding that the “biggest loss will be for the Europeans.”

EU trade with Iran has nearly tripled since 2015.

Following the visits by Merkel and Macron, U.K. Foreign Minister Boris Johnson was in Washington this week to make a last-ditch argument to persuade Trump to remain in the accord, arguing that it is flawed but can be improved by the side agreements.

Johnson met this week with Vice President Mike Pence, National Security Adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other administration and congressional officials.

Trump foreshadowed his decision on Monday, complaining on Twitter about the Iran agreement and deriding former Secretary of State John Kerry for meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif two weeks ago at the United Nations to discuss salvaging the deal. “He was the one that created this MESS in the first place!” Trump said of Kerry.

Saturday Deadline

Under legislation passed by Congress, Trump has until Saturday to decide whether to keep waiving sanctions on banks of foreign countries that haven’t reduced Iranian oil imports, according to an analysis by the Congressional Research Service. Under that law, those sanctions have to be waived every 120 days.

Trump last agreed to waive the sanctions in January, but his frustration with the agreement has only grown since then. Declining to waive the restrictions again means an assessment of whether foreign countries are violating the sanctions would be due Nov. 8, according to the CRS study.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that the 2015 accord is fatally flawed and must be “fully fixed or nixed” to stop Iranian aggression sooner rather than later. His comments came as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned that the U.S. would face “historic” regret if it pulled out.

Netanyahu’s Role

Netanyahu delivered a televised presentation last week on secret Iranian files his country’s intelligence services obtained that he said prove that Tehran sought to build a nuclear weapon in the past despite its government’s denials. Trump watched the presentation, and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement declaring that the Israeli intelligence proved “Iran has a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program.”

The White House later corrected the statement online to say Iran “had” a nuclear program, blaming a clerical error. Netanyahu did not claim that Iran currently has a nuclear program.

Members of Trump’s own party are split. Representative Mac Thornberry, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said Sunday he “would counsel against” Trump quitting the accord. Representative Ed Royce, who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, agreed, saying in a statement Tuesday, “I fear a withdrawal would actually set back these efforts” to stop Iran’s nuclear activities.

But House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has said he’s “very comfortable” that the president is standing up to Iran.

via Donald Trump: The U.S. Will Withdraw From the Iran Nuclear Deal — Fortune

An Israeli minister hints that Assad could be assassinated over any Iranian attacks on Israel from Syria — National Post

international News, Middle East, News, Politics, SEcurity, SYRIA

JERUSALEM, May 7 (Reuters) — Israel could respond to any Iranian attack on it from Syria by toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government, an Israeli security cabinet minister said on Monday, hinting that Assad himself may be targeted for assassination. Israel and Iran have traded blows over Syria since February, stirring concern that major escalation…

JERUSALEM, May 7 (Reuters) — Israel could respond to any Iranian attack on it from Syria by toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government, an Israeli security cabinet minister said on Monday, hinting that Assad himself may be targeted for assassination.

Israel and Iran have traded blows over Syria since February, stirring concern that major escalation could be looming ahead of next week’s review decision by U.S. President Donald Trump on the 2015 international nuclear deal with Tehran.

On April 9, an air strike killed seven Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps members at the Syrian base. Tehran blamed Israel and vowed unspecified retaliation, drawing Israeli counter-threats to broaden attacks on Iranian military assets in Syria.

Sharpening these warnings, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Monday that Assad may find himself in Israel’s sights.

“If Assad allows Iran to turn Syria into a military vanguard against us, to attack us from Syrian territory, he should know that would be the end of him, the end of his regime,” Steinitz told the Ynet news site.

Asked if that meant Israel might assassinate Assad, Steinitz said: “His blood would be forfeit.” He also appeared to suggest that his remarks did not reflect Israeli government policy, saying: “I’m not talking about any concrete proposal.”

There was no immediate response from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office or from Israel’s Defence Ministry.

A Ynet text story had quoted Steinitz as saying explicitly that Israel would kill Assad, but this was not borne out by a video clip of the interview.

Iran, Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia and Russia have been reinforcing Damascus against a seven-year-old Syrian rebellion. The Israelis worry that Iran’s garrison will remain, linking with Hezbollah to form a broad Syrian-Lebanese front against them.

On Sunday, Israeli media carried what they described as an alert by Israel’s intelligence services that Iran was planning a missile salvo against Israeli military bases from within Syria.

Some analysts interpreted the publication as a warning to Iran that its plans were known, lest it try to carry out the missile strike without explicitly claiming responsibility.

On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow to discuss Syria, where Moscow wants to see Assad’s rule restored.

“Whoever is interested in Assad’s survival should do the honour of telling Assad to prevent attacks on Israel,” Steinitz said, alluding to Putin.

via An Israeli minister hints that Assad could be assassinated over any Iranian attacks on Israel from Syria — National Post

After Banning Trump from Attending, McCain Now Wants Barack Obama To Give Eulogy at His Funeral

Politics, relationship

Politics Security After Banning Trump from Attending, McCain Now Wants Barack Obama To Give Eulogy at His Funeral A beloved Democrat Republican U.S. Senator is making additional plans to his funeral, asking Barack Obama to deliver a eulogy, while forbidding President Trump from attending. John McCain is busy now planning his funeral. He hasn’t been […]

https://wp.me/p4G21n-6NsY

US tests terrifying nuclear weapon powerful enough to kill hundreds of thousands of people

News

The ‘Fat Man’ bomb dropped on Nagasaki in 1945 is believed to have killed up to 40,000 people within a day – with twice as many victims dying in the following months.

Now the US has confirmed it has tested a super-accurate nuke that’s almost three times as powerful and can be carried on a bomber jet.

The US Air Force has conducted dozens of tests of the B61-12 guided nuclear gravity bomb, which is designed to penetrate underground bunkers and destroy heavily armoured command centres.

It can be… Read the full story

Metro

China rejects US military claims of laser attacks on pilots

News, Tech

China on Friday rejected US allegations that Chinese nationals shone military-grade lasers at American pilots in Djibouti, dismissing the claims as “inconsistent with facts”.

Image result for american military, pilots, photos, cockpit

AFP

Beijing, which operates a naval base in the Horn of Africa country, denied Pentagon accusations that Chinese personnel have targeted US pilots in the country with the beams, resulting in minor injuries to airmen and creating the potential for an accident.

“After careful verification, we have told the US explicitly that the so-called accusations are totally inconsistent with facts,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters.

You can remind relevant people in the US to pay attention to facts and not to make groundless accusations,” she said during a regular briefing.You can remind relevant people in the US to pay attention to facts and not to make groundless accusations,” she said during a regular briefing.

US officials issued a formal diplomatic complaint and demanded Beijing investigate a series of incidents dating back several weeks, Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said Thursday.

“They are very serious incidents,” White said.

“This activity poses a true threat to our airmen.”

In one case, two pilots on a C-130 cargo plane suffered minor eye injuries as they came in to land at the base in the Horn of Africa nation, another spokeswoman, Major Sheryll Klinkel, told AFP.

Located at Djibouti international airport, the US military’s Camp Lemonnier base is its only permanent facility in Africa. It is used largely for counter-terrorism operations in East Africa and Yemen.

China last year opened a naval base in Djibouti, only a few miles (kilometres) from the US facility, marking the first overseas base for Beijing’s rapidly growing military.

White said she was “confident” that whoever had shone the high-powered lasers was Chinese.

Officials told The Wall Street Journal the laser likely came from the Chinese base.

The Federal Aviation Administration last month published a warning to pilots to use extreme caution in the area.

“There have been multiple lazing events involving a high-power laser in the vicinity,” the warning reads.

Ex-San Jose cop stood up for sexually harassed women at tech firm and was fired for it: lawsuit

Crime, SEcurity




When a high-ranking executive at $17 billion San Jose tech company Xilinx started talking about his genitals during a company party, female colleagues were uncomfortable but feared if they complained to HR they would suffer retaliation, according to a new lawsuit against the firm. So Robert Lobach, a security contractor at the semiconductor company and former San Jose policeman, urged the women to reconsider going to HR, but they declined and he offered to make the complaint on their behalf, the lawsuit said. The women agreed, according to the suit, which alleges Lobach was fired in retaliation for making the complaint. Lobach, before going to Xilinx HR, met individually with the women to confirm the details of what they experienced at the December 2017 party also attended by the Xilinx executive, Chris Ward, head of global security operations, the suit said. At the party, Ward had been telling a story about a man who threatened to cut off a portion of his genitals, and Ward went on to praise his reproductive organ and emphasized his desire to protect it from the would-be assailant, the lawsuit said. Get tech news in your inbox weekday mornings. Sign up for the free Good Morning Silicon Valley newsletter. The women around Ward were, like Lobach, contractors from security company Allied Universal Security Services, which provided services to Xilinx, according to the suit. “When Mr. Ward finally noticed his Allied co-workers’ discomfort he proclaimed ‘I’m the client I can say this,’” the suit said. Xilinx did not immediately provide answers to questions about the lawsuits’ claims. The lawsuit comes as the #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct toward women has taken hold in Silicon Valley, roiling tech companies and venture capital firms. About a week after the Xilinx party, Lobach went to Xilinx HR and outlined the concerns the female contractors had about the alleged harassment, the suit said. Lobach was fired the next day, according to the suit. Lobach’s suit was filed Tuesday in Santa Clara County Superior Court claims. Lobach is seeking unspecified damages.

https://bayareane.ws/2jpPkuC

Ex-San Jose cop stood up for sexually harassed women at tech firm and was fired for it: lawsuit

Crime, SEcurity




When a high-ranking executive at $17 billion San Jose tech company Xilinx started talking about his genitals during a company party, female colleagues were uncomfortable but feared if they complained to HR they would suffer retaliation, according to a new lawsuit against the firm. So Robert Lobach, a security contractor at the semiconductor company and former San Jose policeman, urged the women to reconsider going to HR, but they declined and he offered to make the complaint on their behalf, the lawsuit said. The women agreed, according to the suit, which alleges Lobach was fired in retaliation for making the complaint. Lobach, before going to Xilinx HR, met individually with the women to confirm the details of what they experienced at the December 2017 party also attended by the Xilinx executive, Chris Ward, head of global security operations, the suit said. At the party, Ward had been telling a story about a man who threatened to cut off a portion of his genitals, and Ward went on to praise his reproductive organ and emphasized his desire to protect it from the would-be assailant, the lawsuit said. Get tech news in your inbox weekday mornings. Sign up for the free Good Morning Silicon Valley newsletter. The women around Ward were, like Lobach, contractors from security company Allied Universal Security Services, which provided services to Xilinx, according to the suit. “When Mr. Ward finally noticed his Allied co-workers’ discomfort he proclaimed ‘I’m the client I can say this,’” the suit said. Xilinx did not immediately provide answers to questions about the lawsuits’ claims. The lawsuit comes as the #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct toward women has taken hold in Silicon Valley, roiling tech companies and venture capital firms. About a week after the Xilinx party, Lobach went to Xilinx HR and outlined the concerns the female contractors had about the alleged harassment, the suit said. Lobach was fired the next day, according to the suit. Lobach’s suit was filed Tuesday in Santa Clara County Superior Court claims. Lobach is seeking unspecified damages.

https://bayareane.ws/2jpPkuC

Military plane with 5 crew members crashes near Savannah, Georgia

Military, News, SEcurity

Watch VideoA military plane carrying five crew members crashed Wednesday near Savannah, Georgia, officials said.

The US Air Force said that an Air National Guard WC-130 from the 156th Airlift Wing in Puerto Rico crashed in the area. The 165th Airlift Wing of the Georgia Air National Guard is responding to the scene, according to the Air Force. The WC-130 is used for weather reconnaissance, it said.

A local firefighters’ union reported the crash happened in the Savannah suburb of Port Wentworth.

The plane had five people on board, Georgia National Guard spokeswoman Desiree Bamba said. The passengers’ conditions are unknown, she said. The Air Force said five is a standard crew for the WC-130.

Christian Freeman saw the WC-130 go down, he told CNN. First, he heard a “loud, strange noise,” he said.

“I looked over to my right and seen the plane at very low altitude and making a hard left turn to the ground,” he said.

Ten to 15 seconds later, it crashed. It happened so quickly he didn’t have a chance to pull his phone out until after it exploded, Freeman said.

“It was horrible,” said Denver Goodwin, who works at a wrecker service down the street from the crash. “The ground shook like a bomb was going off. All the people in the building started panicking. It was absolutely horrible.”

Mary Hennessy Cogar was at her place of employment, about 4 miles south of the crash, and said she felt the impact.

“Our building shook and the lights flickered. We heard a boom of the crash and then a louder boom of the explosion,” she told CNN.

The crash occurred a few miles away from the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, off state Highway 21, airport spokeswoman Candace Carpenter said. Smoke was visible from the airport.

Minh Phan was at an outlet mall in Pooler, Georgia, a few miles away when he captured an image of smoke rising over the tree line.

A tweet from the Savannah Professional Firefighters Association showed the tail of the plane emerging from black smoke and fire. Highway 21 has been shut down, the union said.

Flights out of the Savannah airport are being affected by the crash, according to a tweet from the airport that urged passengers to check the status of their flights before going through security.

Last month, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Mac Thornberry, released a statement saying the “readiness of the military is at a crisis point”after reports that 16 American service members had been killed in noncombat aircraft crashes over a matter of weeks.

Last summer, the Marine Corps ground its fleet of KC-130T aircraft — which, like the WC-130, is a variant of the C-130, following a crash that killed 15 Marines and one sailor in Mississippi.

By Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN

EU tells tech giants to tackle fake news by end-year — creation of a network of “independent fact-checkers” and a code of conduct — Peace and Freedom

International Finance, News, Tech

The EU warned US tech giants Thursday to crack down on the spread of “fake news” by the end of the year or face regulation in the wake of a scandal involving the illegal harvesting of Facebook users’ data. © AFP | Protestors demonstrated outside Portcullis house in London where Facebook’s Chief Technology Officer Mike […]

via EU tells tech giants to tackle fake news by end-year — creation of a network of “independent fact-checkers” and a code of conduct — Peace and Freedom

Brussels called for the creation of a network of “independent fact-checkers” and a code of conduct amid growing concerns over election meddling involving the use of the internet and personal data.

“We are giving social networks and online platforms a chance to resolve the problem once and for all,” EU digital commissioner Mariya Gabriel told a news conference.

As a first step, the Bulgarian commissioner called on tech firms to draw up a code of conduct by July, and proposed the creation of a secure online platform to tackle “disinformation”.

“We will closely monitor the progress made and may propose further actions by December, including measures of regulatory nature, should the results prove unsatisfactory,” she warned.

A European Commission statement explicitly referenced the scandal over the massive leak of Facebook user data to British consultancy Cambridge Analytica for use in the election campaign of US President Donald Trump.

“The recent Facebook/Cambridge Analytica revelations demonstrated exactly how personal data can be exploited in electoral contexts, and are a timely reminder that more is needed to secure resilient democratic processes,” the statement said.

Brussels has repeatedly raised concerns over meddling in elections including alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential ballot and the Brexit vote in Britain the same year.

French President Emmanuel Macron said in an address to the US Congress on Wednesday that “to protect our democracies, we have to fight against the ever-growing virus of fake news”.

The EU plans come after a group of 40 media experts including AFP produced a report on the issue earlier this year.

Brussels meanwhile also pressed Silicon Valley firms like Google to be more transparent about how their search results work amid concerns that they are squeezing out small businesses.

“We must make sure they are not abusing their power,” Gabriel said.

Google was hit last June with a 2.4-billion-euro (more than $2.7 billion) EU fine for illegally favouring its shopping service in search results, after which it proposed fixes including running the shopping arm as a standalone business.

The EU has taken an increasingly tough stance on US tech firms, with plans announced in March for a digital tax on Silicon Valley giants riling Washington.

2018 Chevrolet Silverado Centennial Edition Review: A Swan Song for Pickup Trucks Past — Vehicle Traveller

Business

2018 Chevrolet Silverado Centennial Edition Review: A Swan Song for Pickup Trucks Past http://www.thedrive.com/new-cars/20170/2018-chevrolet-silverado-centennial-edition-review-a-swan-song-for-pickup-trucks-past Welcome to Critic’s Notebook, a quick and off-the-cuff car review consisting of impressions, jottings, and marginalia regarding whatever The Drive writers happen to be driving. Today’s edition: the 2018 Chevrolet Silverado Centennial Edition. Malcolm Gladwell is often quoted as saying it […]

via 2018 Chevrolet Silverado Centennial Edition Review: A Swan Song for Pickup Trucks Past — Vehicle Traveller

US pastor on trial for alleged terror ties, spying in Turkey

international News, Politics

US pastor on trial for alleged terror ties, spying in Turkey by By ZEYNEP BILGINSOY, Associated Press

© The Associated Press FILE - In this undated file photo, Andrew Brunson, an American pastor, stands in Izmir, Turkey. The trial of an American pastor imprisoned in Turkey, whose case is part of the quagmire

© The Associated Press FILE – In this undated file photo, Andrew Brunson, an American pastor, stands in Izmir, Turkey. The trial of an American pastor imprisoned in Turkey, whose case is part of the quagmire

ISTANBUL — An American pastor imprisoned in Turkey is going on trial for alleged terror ties and spying in a case that has increased tensions between Washington and Ankara.

Andrew Craig Brunson, an evangelical pastor from North Carolina, is facing 35 years in prison on charges of “committing crimes on behalf of terror groups without being a member” and “espionage.” The trial begins Monday in western Izmir province.

He was arrested in December 2016 for alleged links to both an outlawed Kurdish insurgent group and the network of the U.S.-based Muslim cleric who Turkey blames for a masterminding a failed military coup that year. The cleric, Fethullah Gulen, denies the claim.

Brunson has denied all allegations and maintains that he solely worked as a pastor

American officials have repeatedly requested that Brunson be released. In a meeting last year with his Turkish counterpart, President Donald Trump asked that the government “expeditiously” return the pastor to the U.S. But the appeals have not made much headway.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan fired back at Washington in September, demanding that the U.S. first return Gulen.

“You give him to us and we’ll give you this one,” he said, referring to Brunson.

Turkey has submitted an extradition request to the U.S. for Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, but so far it not been granted — a point that festers in the Turkish government, which has hunted down tens of thousands of alleged Gulen supporters and either imprisoned them or fired them from government jobs.

Brunson, 50, has been living in Turkey for 23 years and served as the pastor of Izmir Resurrection Church with a small Protestant congregation. The pastor was first detained in October 2016 with his wife, Norine Brunson, who was later released.

The Izmir prosecutor’s indictment against Brunson claims he was in contact with top-level executives of Gulen’s network and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. Both are designated terror groups in Turkey. Brunson is accused of acting in “parallel and coordinated fashion” with them, aiming to “divide” the country.

The prosecutor also accuses Brunson of espionage, saying Brunson acted “as an agent of unconventional warfare,” gathering intelligence with religious work as his cover. The indictment — based on the testimonies of witnesses, including three secret ones, and alleged digital evidence — claims the pastor worked to convert Kurds to Christianity to sow discord.

The American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative Christian group in the U.S. lobbying for Brunson’s release, has called him a “hostage of the Turkish government.” A petition has garnered more than half a million signatures, stating that the case was putting Christianity on trial.

AP

 

 

Teenager held down by police, hit with baton in Byron Bay yelled ‘I’m not resisting’, inquiry hears

Politics

Footage showing police holding down a teenage boy and hitting him with a baton has been played at an independent inquiry into the officers’ conduct.

The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) in Sydney is investigating whether the officers used excessive force and therefore engaged in serious misconduct while arresting the intoxicated 16-year-old in Byron Bay in January 2018.

The video, which runs for two minutes and 49 seconds, was filmed by a member of the public.

It shows four officers holding the teenager down, and one of the officers hitting him just under 20 times, with most of the blows coming from a baton.

The 16-year-old, who can only be referred to as ‘AO’, can be heard yelling, “Please help, help!” and then “I’m not resisting”, while one of the officers can be heard saying, “Stop resisting, stop it”.

In his opening address, counsel assisting the commission Terence Rowles said that police received a call from a member of the public at 2:00am on January 11 advising that a naked man was acting inappropriately in the vicinity of the Nomad’s Backpackers Hostel in Byron Bay.

“AO was disorientated and appeared to be acting under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol,” Mr Rowles said.

“Attempts to communicate with AO or to have him obey commands were unsuccessful, the police officers then used OC spray, a taser and finally physical force, including the use of batons, to restrain him.”

Mr Rowles said AO suffered extensive bruising and a fractured rib.

“Although it is certainly the case that AO was acting irrationally and was plainly intoxicated in some way, he had not attempted to attack anyone, either physically or verbally, he was plainly unarmed,” Mr Rowles told the commission.

“He was shouting, but to the extent that anything could be made out, he was not either swearing or threatening.

“One of the important questions that needs to be determined is whether, at any time, but more particularly before any physical interaction occurred between AO and the police, he attempted to attack any officer or acted as though he might do so.”

‘Reasonable suspicion of mental illness, intoxication’

All four police officers will give evidence and be cross-examined during the hearing, however their identities have been suppressed by the commission to protect their privacy.

“It is clear that when the four officers arrived they were faced with a difficult and unpleasant situation which certainly justified a reasonable suspicion of both mental illness and drug intoxication … and warranted immediate police intervention and removal of AO to a safe place,” Mr Rowles said.

“How they went about this is task is the subject of this investigation.”

The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission is an independent statutory body which is separate from the NSW Police.

Its role is to detect, investigate and expose serious misconduct and serious maladministration within the NSW Police Force and it has powers to protect persons who provide information to it.

Once this matter has been investigated, the commission will present a report to Parliament.

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SYria Bombing Update: 105 missiles were launched in strikes against Syria

international News, Military, Politics, Power, SYRIA

105 missiles were launched in strikes against Syria

In a briefing on Saturday morning, the Pentagon provided the following breakdown of the military weapons used to strike Syrian targets overnight.

 

From the Red Sea:

USS Monterey (Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser) – 30 Tomahawk missiles

USS Laboon (Arleigh Burke-class destroyer) – 7 Tomahawk missiles

From the North Arabian Gulf:

USS Higgins (Arleigh Burke-class destroyer) – 23 Tomahawk missiles

From the eastern Mediterranean:

USS John Warner (Virginia class submarine) – 6 Tomahawk missiles

A French frigate ship (could not understand name) – 3 missiles (naval version of SCALP missiles)

From the air:

2 B-1 Lancer bombers – 19 joint air to surface standoff missiles

British flew a combination of Tornado and Typhoon jets – 8 storm shadow missiles

French flew a combination of Rafales and Mirages – 9 SCALP missiles

A US Defense Department photo of the missile strikes against Syria conducted on April 14. The guided missile cruiser USS Monterey fired a Tomahawk missile in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. 

Pentagon: Clear message to Syrian regime

Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff, said that the strikes on Syria overnight by US and allies were “a powerful show of allied unity.”

“We deployed 105 weapons against three targets that will significantly impact the Syrian regimes ability to develop, deploy and use chemical weapons in the future. It’s been said before but I want to emphasize again that by compassion, this strike was double the size of the last strike in April 2017.”

CNN

@CNN

Pentagon says that by comparison, this strike in Syria was “double the size” of the last strike in April, 2017 https://cnn.it/2HAL1rA 

Pentagon: Strikes will set back Syria’s chemical weapons “for years”

Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff, said that the coordinated strikes which struck targets in Syria overnight will set the country’s chemical weapons capability back “for years.”

He added that “none of our aircraft or missiles in this operation were successfully engaged” by Syrian regime.

Map of US-led airstrikes in Syria provided by the US Department of Defense.