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  1. John Bolton, the former US Ambassador to the United Nations, (L) speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Oxon Hill, Maryland, US, February 24, 2017. National Security Adviser Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster (R) at US President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, US February 20, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts and Kevin Lamarque/Files WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Thursday chose as his new national security adviser John Bolton, a hawk who has advocated using military force against Iran and North Korea and has taken a hard line against Russia. Trump said in a tweet that Bolton would replace H.R. McMaster, his current national security adviser, "effective 4/9/18". "I am very thankful for the service of General H.R. McMaster who has done an outstanding job & will always remain my friend. "There will be an official contact handover on 4/9," he added. Bolton, 69, who has long been a polarising figure in Washington foreign policy circles, becomes Trump?s third national security adviser in 14 months. Bolton joins a Trump national security team that, with the planned replacement of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by CIA chief Mike Pompeo, is increasingly populated by figures who share Trump?s penchant for exercising US power unilaterally. As the State Department?s top arms control official under President George W. Bush, Bolton was a leading advocate of the 2003 invasion of Iraq ? which was later found to have been based on bogus and exaggerated intelligence about President Saddam Hussein?s weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and ties to terrorism. In recent years, as a conservative media commentator, Bolton has advocated hardline positions on stopping Pyongyang from getting nuclear weapons that could threaten the US. He has also advocated getting rid of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, a pact Trump has also heavily criticised.
  2. WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump signed a presidential memorandum on Thursday that could impose tariffs on up to $60 billion of imports from China, although his action was far removed from threats that could have ignited a global trade war. Under the terms of the memorandum, Trump will target the Chinese imports only after a consultation period, a measure that will give industry lobbyists and legislators a chance to water down a proposed target list which runs to 1,300 products. China will also have space to respond to Trump´s actions, reducing the risk of immediate dramatic retaliation from Beijing, and Trump struck an emollient tone as he started speaking, saying "I view them as a friend." "We have spoken to China and we are in the middle of negotiations," Trump said, adding that loss of American jobs from unfair trade was one of the main reasons he had been elected in 2016.The United States runs a $375 billion goods trade deficit with China. Washington will also pursue alleged breaches of intellectual property law by China through the World Trade Organization, a body that has repeatedly drawn the ire of the administration but which could provide a resolution that avoids a trade war. Global stocks had sold off on Thursday on the expectation of tough action from Trump, with US markets down as much as 2 percent, but recovered somewhat after the announcement. Following Trump´s announcement on Thursday, the US Trade Representative´s office will present a list of products that could be targeted, primarily from the high-tech sector. There will then be a 60-day consultation period before definitive action will be put into force. Chinese investments White House officials told a briefing ahead of the trade announcement that the administration was eyeing tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods. They said the figure was based on a calculation of the impact on the profits of US companies that had been forced to hand over their intellectual property as the price of doing business in China. There was no explanation of the difference between the numbers provided by White House officials in the briefing and Trump´s $60 billion. "Many of these areas are those where China has sought to acquire advantage through the unfair acquisition and forced technology transfer from US companies establishing its own competitive advantage in an unfair manner," Everett Eissenstat, deputy director of the National Economic Council, told reporters. In addition, Trump will also direct the US Treasury to propose measures that could restrict Chinese investments in the United States, Eissenstat said. The tariffs and investment restrictions will be imposed under the US Trade Representative´s "Section 301" The investigation into alleged misappropriation of US intellectual property by China Eissenstat said the investigation clearly demonstrates unfair practices by China, which forces US investors to turn over key technologies to Chinese firms.
  3. Photo: AFP It was one of hundreds of cute questionnaires that were shared widely on Facebook and other social media, like "Which Pokeman Are You?" and "What Are Your Most Used Words?" This one, an app called "thisismydigitallife", was a personality quiz, asking questions about how outgoing a person is, how vengeful one can be, whether one finishes projects, worries a lot, likes art, or is talkative. About 320,000 people took the quiz, designed by a man named Alexsandr Kogan. Kogan was contracted to do it by a company called Cambridge Analytica, founded by US Republican supporters including Steve Bannon, who would become the strategist for Donald Trump. Because Kogan´s app was circulated via Facebook, it reaped far more than just the information on those who took the test. At the time, in 2015, such apps could scrape up all the personal details of not only the quiz-taker, but all their Facebook friends. That ultimately became a horde of data on some 50 million Facebook users -- their personal information, their likes, their places, their pictures, and their networks. Marketers use such information to pitch cars, clothes, and vacations with targeted ads. It was used in earlier elections by candidates to identify potential supporters. But for Kogan and Cambridge it was a much bigger goldmine. They used it for psychological profiling of US voters, creating a powerful database that helped carry Trump to victory in the 2016 presidential election. The data let the Trump campaign know more than perhaps anyone has ever known about Facebook users, creating targeted ads and messaging that could play on their individual biases, fears and loves -- effectively creating a bond between them and the candidate. Psychometric profiling The project was based on the work of a former Cambridge scientist, Michal Kosinski, who studies people based on what information they generate on line. Kosinski and fellow researcher David Stillwell had for several years tapped into Facebook for psychometric profiling using their own personality test app, "myPersonality". The app accumulated six million test results, along with users´ Facebook profiles, and their friends´ profiles, in a powerful research database. In 2015 they published a study carrying the bold title: "Computer-based personality Judgments are more accurate than those made by humans." They showed, for example, that they could divine a fairly accurate psychometric portrait of a person using only their Facebook "likes". "Computers outpacing humans in personality Judgment presents significant opportunities and challenges in the areas of psychological assessment, marketing, and privacy," they wrote. Kosinski would not share the database with Kogan and Cambridge Analytica, reportedly knowing it would be used for a political campaign. But Kogan created his own app quiz and, through that, amassed the database on 50 million people that would be the backbone of Trump´s social media campaign. Facebook now says Kogan did that illegally. And it has since also restricted apps from such broad data collection on friend networks. Powerful results But Cambridge Analytica proved that Kosinski´s methods were powerful. They started with the standard psychological profiling test known as Big Five or OCEAN, which measures five traits: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. The test-taker answers a list of statements like "I am someone who tends to be organized" or "who rarely feels excited" or "has few artistic interests," using a scale from "strongly agree" to "strongly disagree". Those basic results were combined with the data raked from Facebook profiles and friend networks, associating longer lists of traits. For example, to categorize voters, an algorithm could find links between "agreeableness" or "neuroticism" and gender, age, religion, hobbies, travel, specific political views, and a host of other variables. The data generated an incredible 4,000 or more data points on each US voter, according to Alexander Nix, Cambridge Analytica´s chief executive before he was suspended on Tuesday. The power of psychographic data, experts say, is not in the granularity itself, but in combining data to make significant correlations about people -- something with requires powerful computer algorithms. Ultimately, it allowed the campaign to know far more about voters than anyone ever has before. The output was put to work in what Nix called "behavioral microtargeting" and "psychographic messaging". More simply said, the campaign could put out messages, news and images via Facebook and other social media that was finely targeted to press the right buttons on an individual that would push them into Trump´s voter base. For Trump, it worked. "If you know the personality of the people you´re targeting, you can nuance your messaging to resonate more effectively with those key audience groups," Nix said in a 2016 presentation.
  4. Photo: Reuters President Donald Trump spelled out in new detail several steps he favoUrs to fight a US epidemic of opioid abuse, including the execution of drug dealers, a proposal that has gained little support from drug abuse and judicial experts. At an event in Manchester, New Hampshire, Trump unveiled an anti-opioid abuse plan, including his death penalty recommendation, new funding for other initiatives and stiffer sentencing laws for drug dealers. He said the United States must ?get tough? on opioids. ?And that toughness includes the death penalty,? he said. Neither Trump nor the White House gave further details as to when it would be appropriate to seek the death penalty. Trump said that he was working with Congress to find $6 billion in new funding for 2018 and 2019 to fight the opioid crisis. The plan will also seek to cut opioid prescriptions by a third over three years by changing federal programs, he said. Addiction to opioids - mainly prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl - is a growing US problem, especially in rural areas. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 42,000 people died from opioid overdoses in 2016. For Trump, the New Hampshire visit returned him to a state that gave him a key Republican primary election win when he was a political newcomer in 2016. Back then, he promised to tackle the opioid crisis, which is severe in the New England state. In October, he declared the crisis a public health emergency, but without providing more money. Some critics, including Democratic lawmakers, said then that the declaration was meaningless without additional funds. In Manchester, Trump stopped at a local fire station that helps addicts get treatment. He was greeted by roughly 200 protesters, some chanting ?You talk, we die.? Others carried signs, including one that read ?Donald J Duterte,? a reference to the Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte, whose brutal crackdown on drugs has lead to thousands of deaths.
  5. The outside of the "Camp Five" detention facility is seen at US Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Guantanamo Bay, December 10, 2008. Pool image reviewed by the US military. REUTERS/Mandel Ngan/Pool/Files WASHINGTON: The United States is advancing toward the first transfer of a prisoner from the Guantanamo Bay detention centre under US President Donald Trump, the US military told Reuters on Monday, a move that would repatriate the detainee to Saudi Arabia. The transfer of 43-year-old Ahmed Muhammed Haza al-Darbi appeared to have stalled in February when he became eligible but was not repatriated, as allowed under the terms of al-Darbi?s 2014 plea bargain agreement. The US military said at the time it was waiting for assurances from Saudi Arabia?s government to move forward on his departure. On Monday, the Pentagon suggested that process was back on track. Navy Commander Sarah Higgins, a spokeswoman, said the Defense Department was ?reviewing information received from Saudi Arabia regarding al-Darbi?s transfer.? ?The transfer process is moving forward,? Higgins said. ?I have no further information on transfer timing.? She did not, however, elaborate. Al-Darbi?s transfer would decrease the prisoner population at the detention centre in Cuba to 40 from 41 ? despite Trump?s campaign pledge to ?to load it up with some bad dudes.? The prison, which was opened by Republican President George W. Bush to hold terrorism suspects captured overseas after the 9/11 attacks came to symbolize harsh detention practices that opened the US to accusations of torture. US officials have not ruled out again adding to the prisoner population and have acknowledged trouble repatriating Daesh fighters being held by US-backed forces in Syria, raising the possibility that Guantanamo Bay could be seen as a viable option in the future. The news of progress in al-Darbi?s case came before a high-profile trip to Washington by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, his first visit to the United States as Saudi heir apparent. The crown prince is due to meet Trump at the White House on Tuesday, in a visit that is expected to see both countries publicly emphasize their strong security ties, even as those ties come under intensifying scrutiny in Congress. ?Message of hope? Al-Darbi became eligible for repatriation under the terms of his 2014 plea bargain agreement, in which he admitted to his role in a 2002 attack of against a French-flagged oil tanker off the coast of Yemen, and agreed to cooperate with US authorities. He has been held at Guantanamo Bay for 15 years. Ramzi Kassem, a law professor at the City University of New York who has been al-Darbi?s lead defence counsel since 2008, told Reuters that a Trump administration move to honour the 2014 agreement would be significant and would be noticed by other inmates. ?Mr. Darbi?s transfer to Saudi custody would send a qualified message of hope to other prisoners that leaving Guantanamo is possible,? Kassem said. He said the message was qualified in part because ?the US government has no interest in prosecuting three quarters of the detainees left today,? which would make them ineligible for such agreements. Critics of the US military detention system say that militants can be best prosecuted in civilian courts and have seized on the high costs of housing inmates at Guantanamo Bay as one argument why indefinite detention is misguided. Trump?s predecessor, Barack Obama, reduced the inmate population to 41 from 242 but fell short of fulfilling his promise to close the jail before leaving office last year. Trump signed an order in January to keep the Guantanamo Bay detention centre open and hinted in his State of the Union address to Congress that Daesh or al Qaeda fighters could be added to the prison population Trump also asked the Pentagon to re-examine the US military?s detention policy. The US military has long struggled with what to do about prisoners of war in an open-ended battle against extremism, in which militants have come from all corners of the world to fight in places like Syria. In February, US officials expressed concerns about the lack of a clear path on how to deal with foreign fighters for Daesh who were detained by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. US officials say there are hundreds of foreign fighters and thousands of Syrian Daesh militants in SDF hands.
  6. Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe arrives to testify before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. May 11, 2017. Photo: Reuters WASHINGTON: Democrats and other Trump administration critics on Saturday attacked the firing of the second-highest ranking official of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Andrew McCabe, as a politically motivated and vindictive move, while some Republicans praised US Attorney General Jeff Sessions for decisive action. Sessions fired McCabe late on Friday, just two days before the FBI official would have been eligible to retire with a full pension, saying an internal Justice Department watchdog found he leaked information and misled investigators. McCabe, who played a key role in the FBI probes of Hillary Clinton and Russian interference in the 2016 US election, said he believed he was fired for corroborating former FBI Director James Comey?s claim that President Donald Trump had tried to pressure Comey into killing the Russian investigation. Trump described McCabe?s firing as a ?great day? in a post on Twitter on Friday, prompting a scathing response from John Brennan, a former head of the Central Intelligence Agency during the Obama administration. ?When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history,? Brennan wrote on Saturday. Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on MSNBC that McCabe?s dismissal was ?very vindictive.? ?It also is a reflection on the administration?s disdain for the FBI itself. I just think this is outrageous. The Department of Justice, the FBI, should be independent and this type of political behaviour should be unacceptable,? Cardin said. Democratic Senator Kamala Harris, who serves on the judiciary and intelligence committees, called on Sessions to testify before Congress to determine whether McCabe?s firing was a retaliation against those investigating Russian election interference and Moscow?s alleged ties to Trump?s campaign. Republican Representative Bob Goodlatte, who heads the US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, said in a statement on Saturday that McCabe?s actions had ?tarnished? the FBI?s reputation. ?I applaud Attorney General Jeff Sessions for taking action and firing former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe prior to his scheduled retirement,? Goodlatte said. Comey has testified that he believes his own firing by Trump in May was a move to undermine the FBI?s investigation of possible collusion between the Russians and Trump campaign officials. Trump has denied such ties. After Comey?s ouster, Trump said in a televised interview that he fired him over ?this Russia thing.? Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein tapped Special Counsel Robert Mueller to lead the Russia probe after Sessions recused himself from the investigation due to his role in Trump?s campaign. Trump?s personal lawyer, John Dowd, said in a statement on Saturday that Rosenstein should follow the ?brilliant and courageous example? set by Sessions? firing of McCabe, urging him to ?bring an end to alleged Russia Collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe?s boss James Comey.?
  7. BACKGROUND: A giant logo is seen at Facebook's headquarters in London, Britain, December 4, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville/Files; SUPERIMPOSED: US President Donald Trump speaks at the White House in Washington, US, October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/Files Data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica harvested private information from more than 50 million Facebook users in developing techniques to support President Donald Trump?s 2016 election campaign, the New York Times and London?s Observer reported on Saturday. The Massachusetts attorney general said her office was launching an investigation after the news reports. ?Massachusetts residents deserve answers immediately from Facebook and Cambridge Analytica,? Maura Healey said on Twitter in a post that linked to a Times report. The United Kingdom?s Information Commission also announced on Saturday they are conducting an investigation of Cambridge Analytica, which also had clients in the country. ?Any criminal and civil enforcement actions arising from the investigation will be pursued vigorously,? said Elizabeth Denham, Information Commissioner. Facebook on Friday said it was suspending Cambridge Analytica after finding data privacy policies had been violated. The move means Cambridge Analytica and its parent group Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL) cannot buy ads or administer pages belonging to clients. The newspapers, which cited former Cambridge Analytica employees, associates and documents, said the data breach was one of the largest in the history of Facebook Inc (FB.O). The Observer said Cambridge Analytica used the data, taken without authorization in early 2014, to build a software programme to predict and influence choices at the ballot box. It quoted whistleblower Christopher Wylie, who helped set up Cambridge Analytica and worked with an academic at Cambridge University to obtain the data, as saying the system could profile individual voters to target them with personalized political advertisements. The more than 50 million profiles represented about a third of active North American Facebook users, and nearly a quarter of potential U.S. voters, at the time, the Observer said. ?We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people?s profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis that the entire company was built on,? Wylie told the Observer. The New York Times said interviews with a half-dozen former Cambridge Analytica employees and contractors, and a review of the firm?s emails and documents, revealed it not only relied on the private Facebook data but still possesses most or all of it. The Observer said the data was collected through an app called thisisyourdigitallife, built by academic Aleksandr Kogan, separately from his work at Cambridge University. Through Kogan?s company Global Science Research (GSR), in collaboration with Cambridge Analytica, hundreds of thousands of users were paid to take a personality test and agreed to have their data collected for academic use, the Observer said. However, the app also collected the information of the test-takers? Facebook friends, leading to the accumulation of a data pool tens of millions-strong, the Observer said. It said Facebook?s ?platform policy? allowed only collection of friends data to improve user experience in the app and barred it from being sold on or used for advertising. Facebook said it acted against Cambridge Analytica and SCL after receiving reports they did not delete information about Facebook users that had been inappropriately shared. bit.ly/2FZU1Ir A Cambridge Analytica spokesman said GSR ?was contractually committed by us to only obtain data in accordance with the UK Data Protection Act and to seek the informed consent of each respondent.? ?When it subsequently became clear that the data had not been obtained by GSR in line with Facebook?s terms of service, Cambridge Analytica deleted all data received from GSR,? he said. ?We worked with Facebook over this period to ensure that they were satisfied that we had not knowingly breached any of Facebook?s terms of service and also provided a signed statement to confirm that all Facebook data and their derivatives had been deleted,? the spokesman said. He said that ?no data from GSR was used by Cambridge Analytica as part of the services it provided to the Donald Trump 2016 presidential campaign?. $6.2 million from Trump campaign Trump?s campaign hired Cambridge Analytica in June 2016 and paid it more than $6.2 million, according to Federal Election Commission records. A Trump campaign official said the campaign used the Republican National Committee for its voter data in 2016, not Cambridge Analytica. ?Any claims that voter data were used from another source to support the victory in 2016 are false,? said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. In past interviews with Reuters, Brad Parscale, who ran Trump?s digital ad operation in 2016 and is his 2020 re-election campaign manager, has said Cambridge Analytica played a minor role as a contractor in the 2016 campaign. He said the campaign used voter data from a Republican-affiliated organisation rather than Cambridge Analytica. He declined to comment on Friday. On its website, Cambridge Analytica says it ?provided the Donald J. Trump for President campaign with the expertise and insights that helped win the White House.? Facebook did not mention the Trump campaign or any other campaigns in its statement. ?We will take legal action if necessary to hold them responsible and accountable for any unlawful behaviour,? Facebook said, adding that it was continuing to investigate the claims. In a Twitter post, Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos called the news reports ?important and powerful? but said it was ?incorrect to call this a ?breach? under any reasonable definition of the term.? ?We can condemn this behaviour while being accurate in our description of it,? he said. Acknowledging an episode as a data breach can carry legal significance, as companies face a patchwork of state and federal requirements to notify customers and regulators when they detect that information has been compromised. Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, said the case was ?more evidence that the online political advertising market is essentially the Wild West? and showed the need for Congress to pass legislation to bring transparency and accountability to online political advertisements. A source close to the congressional investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign said the Trump campaign likely will need to address whether it was aware of Cambridge Analytica?s methods for obtaining its data or if the data was leveraged during the election. Cambridge Analytica says it uses ?behavioural microtargeting,? or combining analysis of people?s personalities with demographics, to predict and influence mass behaviour. It says it has data on 220 million Americans, two-thirds of the U.S. population. It has worked on other campaigns in the United States and other countries, and is funded by Robert Mercer, a prominent supporter of politically conservative groups. Facebook in its statement described a rocky relationship with Cambridge Analytica, Kogan and Wylie going back to 2015. That year, Facebook said, it learnt that Kogan lied to the company and violated its policies by sharing data he acquired with a so-called ?research app? that used Facebook?s login system. Kogan was not immediately available for comment. The thisisyourdigitallife app was downloaded by about 270,000 people. Facebook said Kogan gained access to profile and other information ?in a legitimate way? but ?did not subsequently abide by our rules? when he passed the data to SCL/Cambridge Analytica and Wylie. Facebook said it cut ties to Kogan?s app when it learnt of the violation, and asked for certification from Kogan and all parties he had given data to that the information had been destroyed. Although all certified they had destroyed the data, Facebook said it received reports in the past several days that ?not all data was deleted.?
  8. Photo: AFP Donald Trump flops over his baby walker and rolls it around his family?s modest home in Kabul, blissfully unaware of the turmoil his 'infidel' name is causing in the deeply conservative Muslim country. The rosy-cheeked toddler?s parents named him after the billionaire US president in the hope of replicating his success. But now he is at the centre of a social media firestorm in Afghanistan after a photo of his ID papers was posted on Facebook. A fan of the tycoon turned world leader, Sayed Assadullah Pooya said he and his wife have been inundated with ?vulgar and insulting? comments attacking their choice of name for their third child. Photo: AFP Some Facebook users have gone as far as threatening to kill Sayed for giving his son an ?infidel name,? while others have accused him of endangering the boy?s life. There are even suggestions Sayed is using the moniker to wangle asylum in the United States ? a charge the 28-year-old teacher vehemently denies. ?I didn?t know at the beginning that Afghan people would be so sensitive about a name,? Sayed said as Donald played with a music app on his father?s Samsung smartphone in a carpeted room. Photo: AFP Sayed says someone posted the picture online, sparking the controversy that forced him to close his Facebook account. Even Sayed?s neighbors in the heavily Shia area of Kabul where they live have threatened the family and told them to leave. ?When I go out of the house I feel intimidated,? he said. Donald was born in the central province of Daikundi a few months before the 2016 US presidential election, on the farm where Sayed?s parents and grandparents grew almonds, wheat and corn. Sayed was inspired to call his son Donald Trump after reading the Persian-language versions of the businessman?s books, including ?How to Get Rich,? which he borrowed from the library. ?I did a lot of research about him, and that motivated me to choose his name for my son,? he explained. He hopes his son will ?be as successful,? adding that photos of the older Trump already make his younger namesake ?happy?. For Sayed?s parents, bemusement turned to anger when they realized the couple were serious about the name. As relations broke down, the young family moved to Kabul, and they are now estranged from their relatives. Their life could not be more different from the one enjoyed by their son?s namesake, who divides his time between the White House and his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. The family of five is squeezed into a spartan room overlooking a small courtyard and outdoor bathroom, which they rent for $30 a month. Beyond their metal front gate is a warren of dirt lanes barely wide enough for a car, mud-brick houses and putrid open drains. A few blocks from their house, several drug addicts loll on a grassy strip in the middle of a busy road, injecting themselves or sleeping off a hit. During the interview, Sayed?s wife, Jamila, washed the family?s clothes in a small machine outside while keeping an eye on daughter Fatima, 9, and eldest son Karim, 8. Despite the controversy, Donald?s parents have not broken the law by giving their son an un-Islamic name, according to Rohullah Ahmadzai, a senior adviser at the Population Registration Office in Kabul. He said they have the legal right ?to name their children whatever they want? ? even after American presidents. While Sayed is worried about his family?s safety, particularly Donald?s, he remains stubbornly unrepentant. ?It?s likely ? that he will be harassed or beaten by his classmates,? he said matter-of-factly. ?I won?t reconsider (his name). To hell with the other people.?
  9. Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, who has endured a year of withering attacks from President Donald Trump, was fired by the Justice Department Friday just days before he was to retire.Photo: AFP file WASHINGTON: Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, who has endured a year of withering attacks from President Donald Trump, was fired by the Justice Department Friday just days before he was to retire. McCabe pushed back hard at the decision, saying he was the victim of a "war" by the Trump administration against both the FBI, and the special counsel probing allegations of Russian election meddling. Announcing McCabe?s ouster, the Justice Department said an internal investigation found that he had made unauthorized disclosures to the media, and had not been fully honest "on multiple occasions" with the department?s inspector general. "The FBI expects every employee to adhere to the highest standards of honesty, integrity and accountability," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. The decision was taken "after an extensive and fair investigation," Sessions said. Details of the inspector general?s probe were not made public, but it involved the handling of the FBI?s 2016 investigation into Trump?s election rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton. Trump has repeatedly accused McCabe and former FBI chief James Comey of having protected Clinton from prosecution over her misuse of a private email server while she was secretary of state, and over the actions of the private Clinton Foundation set up by her husband, former president Bill Clinton. Trump was also publicly upset about McCabe?s defense of Comey -- whom the president fired in May 2017 in frustration at the ongoing FBI probe into alleged collusion between his election campaign and Russia. McCabe hit out following his sacking in a blistering statement. "I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey," McCabe said. McCabe said the inspector general?s probe "became part of an unprecedented effort by the administration, driven by the president himself, to remove me from my position, destroy my reputation, and possibly strip me of a pension that I worked 21 years to earn." The firing came as the White House shows increasing frustration with the ongoing probe of alleged Trump campaign collusion with Russia by Special Counsel Robert Mueller -- himself a former FBI director. Mueller is notably examining whether Trump obstructed the investigation with his sacking of Comey, an episode that McCabe would be a crucial witness for. ?War with the FBI? Trump had repeatedly criticized McCabe as biased, pressing Sessions to take action against him. Under pressure, on January 30 McCabe announced he would retire at the end of March, when he became eligible for full pension benefits. Meanwhile he halted work and went on leave. "This attack on my credibility is one part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally, but to taint the FBI, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals more generally," McCabe said. "It is part of this administration?s ongoing war with the FBI and the efforts of the special counsel investigation." McCabe denied any impropriety in speaking with the media about the Clinton probe, and denied that he handled the probe with any bias. He also denied having deliberately lied to the inspector general. The firing means the Justice Department can deny him his pension. McCabe said he would appeal Sessions? decision.
  10. A display featuring missiles and a portrait of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is seen at Baharestan Square in Tehran, Iran September 27, 2017. Nazanin Tabatabaee Yazdi/TIMA via REUTERS/Files BRUSSELS/PARIS: Britain, France, and Germany have proposed fresh EU sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missiles and its role in Syria?s war, according to a confidential document, in a bid to persuade Washington to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran. The joint paper, seen by Reuters, was sent to European Union (EU) capitals on Friday, said two people familiar with the matter, to sound out support for such sanctions as they would need the support of all 28 EU member governments. The proposal is part of an EU strategy to save the accord ? signed by world powers ? that curbs Tehran?s ability to develop nuclear weapons, namely by showing US President Donald Trump that there are other ways to counter Iranian power abroad. Trump delivered an ultimatum to the European signatories on January 12. It said they must agree to ?fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal? ? which was sealed under his predecessor Barack Obama ? or he would refuse to extend US sanctions relief on Iran. US sanctions will resume unless Trump issues fresh ?waivers? to suspend them on May 12. ?We will therefore be circulating in the coming days a list of persons and entities that we believe should be targeted in view of their publicly demonstrated roles,? the document said, referring to Iranian ballistic missile tests and Tehran?s role backing Syria?s government in the seven-year-old civil war. The steps would go beyond what a US State Department cable obtained by Reuters last month outlined as a path to satisfy Trump: simply committing to improving the nuclear deal. It also reflects frustration with Tehran. ?We?re getting irritated. We?ve been talking to them for 18 months and have had no progress on these issues,? a diplomat said. EU foreign ministers will discuss the proposal at a closed-door meeting on Monday in Brussels, diplomats said. Analysts say the nuclear agreement, touted at the time as a breakthrough reducing the risk of a devastating wider war in the Middle East, could collapse if Washington pulls out. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif struck a defiant note towards Washington on Friday. ?If the United States makes the mistake of pulling out of the JCPOA, it will definitely be a painful mistake for the Americans,? Iranian state television quoted Zarif as saying. The JCPOA is the formal name of the nuclear deal. Zarif did not refer to the possibility of new EU sanctions. The commission overseeing the nuclear accord said on Friday in Vienna that Iran was meeting its obligations under the deal. The joint document by Britain, France and Germany said they were engaged in ?intensive talks with the Trump administration to ?achieve a clear and lasting reaffirmation of US support for the (nuclear) agreement beyond May 12?. The proposal follows weeks of talks between the State Department and European powers as they try to mollify the Trump administration, which is split between those who want to tear up the agreement and those who wish to preserve it. A US official cited ?very good? talks with London, Paris and Berlin this week in Vienna on the issue. 'Proliferation' of Iranian missiles The document referred to sanctions that would ?target militias and commanders?. It proposes building on the EU?s existing sanctions list related to Syria, which includes travel bans and asset freezes on individuals, as well as a ban on doing business or financing public and private companies. It was strident in its criticism of Iran?s ballistic weapons, which Tehran says are for defensive purposes, saying there were ?transfers of Iranian missiles and missile technology? to Syria and allies of Tehran, such as Houthi rebels in Yemen and Lebanon?s Iran-backed Hezbollah. ?Such a proliferation of Iranian missile capabilities throughout the region is an additional and serious source of concern,? the document said. Still, the issue is highly sensitive because the 2015 pact between Iran and six major powers ? Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the US ? lifted international sanctions that crippled Iran?s oil-based economy. While the EU retains some sanctions on Iranians over human rights abuses, it rescinded its economic and financial restrictions on Iran in 2016 and does not want to be seen to be reneging on the agreement. Iran signed up to limits on its uranium enrichment activity, which it has repeatedly said is for peaceful power generation, not atomic bombs, but has refused to discuss its missiles. The Islamic Republic has dismissed Western assertions that its activities in the Middle East are destabilising and also rejected Trump?s demands to renegotiate the nuclear accord. In the joint document, Britain, France, and Germany set out questions and answers that seek to show that legally, the European powers would not be breaking the terms of the nuclear deal. It said they are ?entitled to adopt additional sanctions against Iran? as long as they are not nuclear-related or were previously lifted under the nuclear agreement. The European powers said new sanctions are justified because Iran ?did not commit further to stop undertaking ballistic missile destabilising activities? under the nuclear agreement. The nuclear deal?s terms did not cover ballistic missile activity.
  11. Trump and McMaster shake hands after the latter was announced as NSA in Feb last year. Photo: Reuters WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump has decided to replace his national security adviser, HR McMaster, but the move is not expected to be made immediately, the Washington Post reported on Thursday. Citing five people with knowledge of the plans, the Post said Trump was considering several possible replacements, including former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton and Keith Kellogg, the chief of staff of the National Security Council. The White House did not immediately respond to a request from Reuters for comment. Trump fires Tillerson, replaces him with hawkish spy chief Pompeo Gina Haspel will become the CIA director On Tuesday, Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the president has signaled in recent days that a shake-up at the top levels of his administration was not over. ?I?m really at a point where we?re getting very close to having the cabinet and other things that I want,? Trump told reporters after Tillerson was fired. McMaster is not expected to be ousted immediately, the Post reported. Trump is willing to take his time making the change to avoid humiliating McMaster and carefully choose a strong replacement, the Post said. Trump Chooses HR McMaster as National Security Adviser General known for sharp questions will be Trump's new top security adviser Trump never personally gelled with McMaster and the president recently told White House Chief of Staff John Kelly that he wanted McMaster replaced, according to the Post. Trump has complained that McMaster, a three-star army general, is too rigid and that his briefings go on too long and seem irrelevant, the Post reported. McMaster is Trump?s second national security adviser, succeeding Michael Flynn who was dismissed a year ago for misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States.
  12. Vanessa Trump, a former model and actress, and Trump Jr said in a joint statement on Thursday: ?After 12 years of marriage, we have decided to go our separate ways. WASHINGTON/NEW YORK: The wife of Donald Trump Jr, the eldest son of US President Donald Trump, has filed for divorce in New York, according to court records. Vanessa Trump, a former model and actress, and Trump Jr said in a joint statement on Thursday: ?After 12 years of marriage, we have decided to go our separate ways.? The statement was provided by the Trump Organization, the president?s business empire, which his son helps manage. Further details were not immediately available on the uncontested divorce filing by Vanessa Trump in a New York state court. She and Trump Jr have ?enormous respect? for each other, according to the joint statement, which also asked for privacy. The couple were married in 2005 and have five children. In recent months, Trump Jr, 40, has become enmeshed in an investigation of possible collusion between his father?s presidential campaign and Russia in the 2016 presidential election. The president has denied any such collusion. Trump Jr arranged a 2016 meeting between a group of Russians and members of his father?s campaign after an intermediary said the Russians offered damaging information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. ?I love it,? Trump Jr responded to the intermediary in an email. He has played a key role in the Trump Organisation since his father entered the White House in January 2017. The president said he would maintain ownership in his hotels, golf courses and hundreds of other businesses but hand off control to his two oldest sons. The Trump Organisation?s website describes Trump Jr as an executive vice president, like his brother Eric Trump. Last month, Vanessa Trump was taken to a New York hospital after she opened a piece of mail containing a threat and a white powder that was later determined to be non-hazardous. Federal prosecutors in Boston earlier this month charged a Massachusetts man with sending the threatening letter.
  13. Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman speaks during an interview at Schwarzman College of Tsinghua University in Beijing. Photo: Reuters file SHANGHAI: China?s sovereign wealth fund has sold its stake in Blackstone Group, the US private equity firm has said, ending a decade-long investment at a time of simmering bilateral trade tension. Blackstone said in an annual report released earlier this month that China Investment Corp (CIC) had recently unloaded the stake that it first began to acquire in 2007 when China sought lucrative ways to invest its massive foreign exchange reserves. The investment was executed via a legal entity set up by CIC called Beijing Wonderful Investments. "As of February 22, 2018, Beijing Wonderful Investments no longer owned any non-voting common units," said the Blackstone report filed two weeks ago. It gave no further information. CIC initially paid $3 billion for a nine percent stake in Blackstone in 2007 in one of its first major investments. A year later it upped its stake to 12.5 percent, Blackstone said at the time. The investment was shadowed by wild swings over the years in Blackstone?s share price. It was not immediately clear why CIC, which according to its website now has more than $800 billion in total assets, sold the stake. No public statement by CIC on the matter has been seen and the fund did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Sino-US commercial ties are perennially touchy due largely to a significant trade imbalance in China?s favour and related accusations by Washington that Beijing impedes access to its markets. Trade relations have come into even sharper focus once again under US President Donald Trump, who frequently calls out China over its trade policies and recently announced US tariffs on steel and aluminium imports that will affect China, among others.
  14. If confirmed by the US Senate, Haspel would become the first woman to head the CIA WASHINGTON: Gina Haspel, a veteran CIA clandestine officer picked by President Donald Trump on Tuesday to head the CIA, is a controversial figure, backed by many in the US intelligence community but regarded warily by some in Congress for her involvement in the agency?s?black site? detention facilities. Haspel was selected as the agency?s new director after the Republican president fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and chose current CIA Director Mike Pompeo as Tillerson?s replacement. If confirmed by the US Senate, Haspel would become the first woman to head the CIA, after serving as deputy director since February 2017. Trump told reporters he has worked very closely with Haspel and regards her as ?an outstanding person.? US officials said that while Haspel was generally held in high regard at the CIA, her nomination raised the unwelcome prospect of greater congressional and media scrutiny of officers who are more comfortable in the dark than in the spotlight. ?This is going to reopen wounds from a decade and more ago, and also invite more oversight of both our analyses and our activities, especially if Gina is confirmed,? said one US official, speaking on condition of anonymity. When she was named deputy director last year, intelligence officers who served with her and congressional officials said that in 2002, during Republican former President George W. Bush?s administration, she ran a secret CIA prison in Thailand codenamed ?Cat?s Eye.? Two suspected members of the al Qaeda militant group were subjected to waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques at the facility. Three years later, still during Bush?s presidency, she helped carry out an order to destroy videotapes of the waterboarding, which simulates drowning and is considered a form of torture, according to those people. Such facilities are called ?black sites? because their existence is unacknowledged by the US government. On Tuesday, some US intelligence officials said reports of her alleged involvement in interrogations involving torture were false. However, they did not immediately provide details. They did not dispute her involvement in carrying out orders to destroy videotapes of harsh interrogation techniques, which was reported in the book?Hard Measures,? by Jose Rodriguez, her boss at the time, and former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow. A CIA spokesman had no immediate comment. Senator Ron Wyden, a Democratic member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on Tuesday he opposed the nominations of both Pompeo and Haspel. ?Ms. Haspel?s background makes her unsuitable to serve as CIA director,? Wyden said.?Her nomination must include total transparency about this background, which I called for more than a year ago when she was appointed deputy director. If Ms. Haspel seeks to serve at the highest levels of US intelligence, the government can no longer cover up disturbing facts from her past.? One key Republican, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, promised to support her nomination. Saying he was ?proud? of her work, Burr said he would ensure her nomination would be considered without delay. ?I know Gina personally, and she has the right skill set, experience and judgment to lead one of our nation?s most critical agencies,? Burr said. Her confirmation hearing has yet to be scheduled. ?There is no question that a director leaving after a year is very turbulent for the agency,? said former CIA Director Michael Hayden. ?That said, leaving Gina and making her the actual director will have a very positive calming influence.? Hayden added, ?I suspect other parts of the government (will) see more turbulence out of this than CIA will.? Human rights groups signalled opposition to Haspel. ?Haspel is a particularly controversial choice, given her reported past involvement in torture at CIA black sites. No one responsible for torture should be leading a federal agency, period,? said Rob Berschinski, senior vice president of Human Rights First. ?The Senate should use her confirmation process to send a strong signal about where this country stands on correcting the mistakes of the past.? Haspel has served in a number of undercover overseas posts in addition to her work in Thailand, including as chief of the CIA station in London and the agency?s base in New York. Then-CIA Director John Brennan in 2013 named her deputy director of National Clandestine Service, but she was denied a permanent promotion in the face of congressional opposition.
  15. US President Donald Trump on Tuesday fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announcing on Twitter that he will be replaced by CIA chief Mike Pompeo. "Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job!" Trump tweeted. "Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service!" he added. The US president announced the appointment of Gina Haspel to head the Central Intelligence Agency -- the first woman tapped for the post. Donald Trump wanted to change up his cabinet team before launching high-stakes negotiations with North Korea, a senior US official said. "The President wanted to make sure to have his new team in place in advance of the upcoming talks with North Korea," the official said. The reshuffle comes days after the spectacular announcement of a meeting between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, whose date and details have yet to be determined.
  16. A sign during a rally against a scheduled upcoming visit by President Donald Trump, Monday, March 12, 2018, in San Diego. Photo: AP Protesters marched and held rallies Monday ahead of President Donald Trump´s first official visit to California. Nearly 200 people marched in downtown San Diego, which is on the border with Mexico, to denounce Trump and in particular his crackdown on immigration both legal and illegal. California is the country´s most populous state and a Democratic stronghold. Trump will arrive in San Diego at 11:30am and then go to nearby Otay Mesa to view eight prototypes for the wall he wants to build on the border with Mexico. Ariel Norcross, demonstrating Monday outside the Federal Building, carried a placard that read "No hate in the Golden State." "I don´t want him, his hateful rhetoric, his hateful administration, any of his policies in my state, in my country," said Norcross. "It´s already been a waste of money to build eight prototypes that are not doing anything," he added. "People will find their way here," he said as he walked in a procession featuring placards denouncing the wall plan and children in Mexican ponchos riding on their parents´ shoulders. "I don´t know why he took so long to get here but I think he is realizing that this is the strongest point of resistance, here at the border and in the state of California," protester Ali Torabei said. After viewing the wall prototypes, Trump is scheduled to give a speech at a military base in Miramar and then head to Los Angeles for a Republican fund-raising dinner. The speaker of California´s senate, Democrat Kevin de Leon, led an anti-Trump rally Monday in Beverly Hills, where the dinner will be held. The largest rally scheduled for Tuesday will be at a church in San Ysidro, from which you can see the border. Hundreds of people are expected to take part. Demonstrators plan to erect a large sign calling on Trump to "build bridges, not walls." But a pro-Trump rally in favor of the wall project is also scheduled. Trump is coming at a time of tense relations between California and the federal government, which has sued the state over its policy of not cooperating with US immigration authorities seeking to detain undocumented immigrants.
  17. US President Donald Trump speaks in support of Republican congressional candidate Rick Sacconne during a Make America Great Again rally in Moon Township, Pennsylvania, US on March 10.Photo: Reuters MOON TOWNSHIP: United States President Donald Trump attacked his critics, promoted his steel and aluminum tariffs and tossed out an idea to have drug dealers face the death penalty, addressing a raucous rally on Saturday for a Republican congressional candidate in a tight race. Trump's appearance was aimed at helping Republican Rick Saccone in a district Trump won overwhelmingly in 2016 as part of a narrow win in Pennsylvania. But while he heartily endorsed Saccone as a "really good person", Trump spent a lot of time talking about his own fortunes in a "Make America Great Again" rally in an airport hangar at the Pittsburgh International Airport. He said it was crucial for Republicans to muster forces to turn back a strong Democratic drive to win one or both houses of the US Congress in November midterm elections. "We need Republicans. We need the vote," Trump said, saying Democrats would take away, among other things, "your Second Amendment rights" to bear firearms. Continuing his battle against the mainstream news media, Trump insulted NBC News' "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd and Democratic Congressperson Maxine Waters. Under pressure over a scandal involving a porn star named Stormy Daniels, Trump singled out his wife, Melania, for praise. "You think her life is so easy folks? Not so easy," he said. Trump said the country should discuss having drug dealers face the death penalty because they are responsible for thousands of deaths. "I don't know if that's popular. I don?t know if that's unpopular." A day after getting news that the US economy produced 313,000 jobs last month, Trump said his policies are paying off. He said 25% tariffs on steel imports will boost Pennsylvania's economy. Critics say the tariffs could trigger retaliatory trade measures and damage the US economy. There are also doubts about how far Trump?s policies will go toward resuscitating the battered American steel industry. "Your steel is coming back. It's all coming back," Trump told several thousand cheering supporters. Trump vowed to fight any retaliatory trade measures by, for example, slapping taxes on imported European cars. Trump also said he hoped to run for reelection against Democrat Oprah Winfrey, although the entertainer has ruled out a run. "I'd love to beat Oprah. I know her weakness," said Trump. Saccone is trying to win an election on Tuesday in Pennsylvania's 18th District to replace Republican Tim Murphy, who resigned last fall while enmeshed in a *** scandal. Polls show Saccone is in a close race against Democrat Conor Lamb. A Saccone loss would be the first loss of a Republican seat in the House of Representatives since Trump took office in January 2017, although Republicans would still have control of the chamber. The race could signal how much help Trump can provide Republican congressional candidates trying to keep control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate in midterm elections next November. Typically the party that controls the White House loses seats in the US Congress in the first election after a new president takes office. Trump hopes a strong economy and tax cuts enacted in December will help him beat the odds.
  18. US President Donald Trump (L) and China's President Xi Jinping leaving a business leaders event at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, November 9, 2017. AFP/Nicolas Asfouri/Files WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump said Saturday he has received encouragement from the leaders of China and Japan as he moves toward a sudden, high stakes summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Trump said China's President Xi Jinping was appreciative of his decision to opt for diplomacy rather than "the ominous alternative," while Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was "very enthusiastic" about talks with North Korea. Trump reached out to the Asian leaders in phone calls Friday after his stunning decision to accept an invitation to meet Kim before the end of May. The turnabout ? a huge surprise after months of intensifying brinksmanship over the North's nuclear and missile programs ? caught even Trump's top aides off guard. Just hours before Trump made his announcement Thursday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had said direct talks with North Korea were "a long way" off. Tillerson, who was travelling in Africa, cancelled his scheduled program in Kenya Saturday because he was "not feeling well after a long couple days working on major issues back home such as North Korea," Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein said in a statement. Goldstein later said Tillerson was feeling better and would resume his travel schedule Sunday. White House officials initially waffled on the president's intentions. "We're not going to have this meeting take place until we see concrete actions that match the words and the rhetoric of North Korea," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters Friday. Emphasizing the positive But in a series of tweets late Friday and Saturday, a seemingly ebullient Trump emphasized the positive. "North Korea has not conducted a Missile Test since November 28, 2017 and has promised not to do so through our meetings. I believe they will honor that commitment!" he said Saturday. Trump praised a possible future agreement with the nuclear-armed North as "very good" for the international community as a whole. "The deal with North Korea is very much in the making and will be, if completed, a very good one for the World. Time and place to be determined," he wrote in a Friday tweet. On Saturday morning, Trump tweeted that Xi "appreciates that the U.S. is working to solve the problem diplomatically rather than going with the ominous alternative. China continues to be helpful!" A White House readout of the conversation said the two leaders committed to keeping the pressure on North Korea until it takes "tangible steps toward complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization." North Korea's ambassador to the United Nations, Pak Song il credited the turnabout to Kim's "broadminded and resolute" decision to contribute to peace and security in the Korean Peninsula. "The United States should know and understand our position and should further contribute to the peace and security-building in the Korean Peninsula with [a] sincere position and serious attitude," he wrote in an email to The Washington Post on Friday. 'Diplomacy without diplomats' Not everyone was so sanguine about the prospects of a breakthrough, however, and some Democrats shuddered at the thought of such sensitive ? and potentially explosive ? negotiations in the hands of an impulsive, inexperienced president. "If you want to talk to Kim Jong Un about his nuclear weapons you need experienced diplomats," Hillary Clinton, Trump's rival in the 2016 presidential elections, told Dutch tabloid Algemeen Dagblad in an interview published Saturday. The former secretary of state said the State Department was "being eroded," and experienced diplomats on the North Korean issue were in short supply because many have left. "You cannot have diplomacy without diplomats," she said, adding that "the danger is not being recognized by the Trump government." Clinton's words echo those of veteran diplomat and former US ambassador to the United Nations, Bill Richardson, who warned that negotiating with North Korea was not "reality television." "It's a real opportunity ... I worry about the president's unpreparedness and lack of discipline. But I commend him for his very bold move in accepting the invitation," Richardson told AFP on Friday. "But this is not 'The Apprentice' or a reality TV event. It's a negotiation with an unpredictable leader who has at least 20 nuclear weapons and who threatens the United States," he said.
  19. US President Donald Trump signs the presidential proclamation placing tariffs while surrounded by workers from the steel and aluminum industries at the White House. Photo: Reuters WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump pressed ahead on Thursday with import tariffs of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent for aluminum but exempted Canada and Mexico and offered the possibility of excluding other allies, backtracking from an earlier ?no-exceptions? stance. Describing the dumping of steel and aluminum in the US market as ?an assault on our country,? Trump said in a White House announcement that the best outcome would be for companies to move their mills and smelters to the United States. He insisted that domestic metals production was vital to national security. ?If you don?t want to pay tax, bring your plant to the USA,? added Trump, flanked by steel and aluminum workers. Plans for the tariffs, set to start in 15 days, have stirred opposition from business leaders and prominent members of Trump?s own Republican Party, who fear the duties could spark retaliation from other countries and hurt the US economy. Within minutes of the announcement, US Republican Senator Jeff Flake, a Trump critic, said he would introduce a bill to nullify the tariffs. But that would likely require Congress to muster an extremely difficult two-thirds majority to override a Trump veto. Trump says tariffs will be 'very fair,' names winners and losers Trump said Mexico and Canada could get carve-outs if talks to renegotiate the trilateral NAFTA trade agreement go well Some Democrats praised the move, including Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who said it was ?past time to defend our interests, our security and our workers in the global economy and that is exactly what the president is proposing with these tariffs.? Trump?s unexpected announcement of the tariffs last week roiled stock markets as it raised the prospect of an escalating global trade war. He appeared to have conceded some ground after concerted lobbying by Republican lawmakers, industry groups and US allies abroad. Canada, the largest supplier of both steel and aluminum to the United States, welcomed the news it would not immediately be subject to the tariffs, but vowed to keep pressing Washington until the threat of tariffs had disappeared.Trump offered relief from steel and aluminum tariffs to countries that ?treat us fairly on trade,? a gesture aimed at putting pressure on Canada and Mexico to give ground in separate talks on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trump economic adviser Cohn quits after dispute over tariffs White House said the timing of Cohn?s departure from his role had not been finalized but was still a few weeks away Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said NAFTA talks were ?independent? of Trump?s tariff actions and should not be subject to outside pressure. In Beijing, China?s Commerce Ministry said on Friday it ?resolutely opposed? the tariffs and that they would ?seriously impact the normal order of international trade.? While Chinese steel exports to the United States have been suppressed by previous anti-dumping duties, the broad ?Section 232? national security tariffs are widely seen as aiming to pressure Beijing to cut excess steel and aluminum production capacity that has driven down global prices. US steel stocks, which have gained for weeks on anticipation of the tariffs, fell after the announcement, with the Standard and Poor?s composite steel index ending down 2.53 per cent against a half per cent gain in the broad S&P 500. Trump speaks with world leaders, no tariff exemptions: Commerce Secretary ?I know he?s had conversations with a number of the world leaders,? Ross said Century Aluminum shares fell 7.5 per cent, while Alcoa dipped 0.9 per cent. The Canadian dollar and Mexican peso gained slightly against the US dollar. Seeking clarity A senior Trump administration official said other countries could seek talks with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to find ?alternative ways? to mitigate the threat to US national security posed by their steel and aluminum exports to the United States. It was unclear whether they would involve quotas or voluntary export restraints, but the official said that permanent exemptions for Canada and Mexico might result in higher tariffs on other countries to maintain 80 per cent capacity usage targets for domestic producers. European Union Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said: ?The EU is a close ally of the US and we continue to be of the view that the EU should be excluded from these measures. I will seek more clarity on this issue in the days to come.? US steel- and aluminum-consuming industries sharply criticized the tariffs as damaging them with higher costs. Trump says US steel, aluminum sectors 'decimated' by unfair trade Trump has vowed to take steps to crack down on imports of steel and aluminum ?The US will become an island of high steel prices that will result in our customers simply sourcing our products from our overseas competitors and importing them into the United States tariff-free,? the Precision Metalforming and National Tooling and Machining associations said in a joint statement. Countermeasures? Several major trading partners have said they might respond to the tariffs with direct action. Countermeasures could include European Union tariffs on US oranges, tobacco and bourbon. Harley-Davidson Inc motorcycles have also been mentioned, targeting Republican US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan?s home state of Wisconsin. Even as Trump threatened tariffs and prodded his NAFTA partners, 11 nations gathered in Chile to sign a landmark Asia-Pacific trade pact, one that Trump withdrew from on his first day in office last year. Trump, who won the White House after a career in real estate and reality TV, has long touted economic nationalism, promising to bring back jobs to the United States and save the country from trade deals he views as unfair. That has put him at odds with many in his Republican Party, traditionally a supporter of free trade.
  20. A combination photo shows a Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) handout of Kim Jong Un released May 10, 2016, and US President Donald Trump posing for a photo in New York City, US, May 17, 2016. REUTERS/KCNA handout via Reuters/Files & REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/Files1 WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump said on Thursday he was prepared to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for the first US-North Korea summit, marking a potentially dramatic breakthrough in nuclear tensions with Pyongyang. Kim has committed to ?denuclearization? and to suspending nuclear or missile tests, South Korea?s National Security Office head Chung Eui-yong told reporters at the White House after briefing Trump on South Korean officials? meeting with Kim on Monday. ?A meeting is being planned,? Trump tweeted after speaking to Chung, who announced that Trump expressed a willingness to sit down with Kim in what would be his biggest foreign policy gamble since taking office. Chung said Trump, in response to Kim?s invitation, had agreed to meet by May, and a senior US official later said it could happen ?in a matter of a couple of months, with the exact timing and place still to be determined.? Trump has previously said he was willing to meet Kim under the right circumstances but had indicated that the time was not right for such talks. He mocked US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in October for ?wasting his time? trying to talk to North Korea. Earlier Thursday, Tillerson had said on a visit to Africa that although ?talks about talks? might be possible with Pyongyang, denuclearization negotiations were likely a long way off. ?Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze,? Trump said in a message on Twitter on Thursday night. ?Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time.? Trump added: ?Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached.? A meeting between Kim and Trump, who have exchanged bellicose insults in the past year that have raised fear of war, would be a major turnaround after a year in which North Korea has carried out a battery of tests aimed at developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US mainland. ?Kim pledged that North Korea will refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests,? Chung said, apparently referring to a suspension during the duration of any talks. ?He expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible,? he said. Trump?s aides have been wary of North Korea?s diplomatic overtures because of its history of reneging on international commitments and the failure of efforts on disarmament by the administrations of President Bill Clinton, President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. Under Clinton in October 2000, then-US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright held talks in Pyongyang with then-North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, the father of Kim Jong Un. US officials and experts, speaking to Reuters before Thursday?s announcement, had cautioned that North Korea could buy time to build up and refine its nuclear arsenal, including a warhead able to survive re-entry into the Earth?s atmosphere, if it manages to drag out any talks with Washington. Joint military exercises Chung and National Intelligence Service chief Suh Hoon flew to Washington to explain North Korea?s stance on possible future talks with Washington and the prospect of Pyongyang suspending nuclear tests if the security of the North?s government is assured. In what would be a key North Korean concession, Chung said Kim ?understands that the routine joint military exercises between the Republic of Korea and the United States must continue.? Pyongyang had previously demanded that such joint drills be suspended in order for any US talks to go forward. Trump in the past has derided the North Korean leader as a ?maniac,? referred to him as ?little rocket man? and threatened in a speech to the United Nations last year to ?totally destroy? his country of 26 million people if it attacked the United States or one of its allies. Kim had responded by calling the US president a ?mentally deranged US dotard.? Trump has also been scathing in his criticism of previous US administrations for not doing more to rein in the North Korean government. ?He believes that he has them on the ropes, or at a disadvantage right now. They only made the gesture because they feel the pressure badly and so this a good time,? a second senior administration official said. But US officials may also be wary since North Korea has yet to weigh in directly on its diplomatic offer and previous overtures from Pyongyang have sometimes carried demands that Washington has found impossible to accept, such as the withdrawal of US troops from South Korea. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he confirmed in telephone talks with Trump that pressure still needed to be applied worldwide on North Korea. Abe also told reporters he hoped to visit the United States as early as next month to meet Trump to discuss North Korea, among other issues. ?We welcome the change in North Korea?s stance?, Abe said. ?Japan and the United States will not waver in its firm stance that they will continue to put maximum pressure until North Korea takes concrete action towards the complete, verifiable and irreversible end to nuclear missile development.? A senior administration official said Trump agreed to meet Kim because Kim is the ?one person who is able to make decisions under their authoritarian, uniquely authoritarian, or totalitarian system,? a senior administration official said. Daniel Russel, until last April the assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific, the most senior US diplomatic position for Asia, noted there had still been no public comment from North Korea about the content of Monday?s meeting with the South Korean delegation. ?Let?s hear from the North Koreans themselves what they are proposing and what they are willing to do. There is plenty of reason to be cautious, given their track record,? Russel said. ?Second, let?s read the fine print. The North has made peace overtures in the past that did not hold up under scrutiny.? Tensions over North Korea rose to their highest in years in 2017, and the Trump administration has warned that all options are on the table, including military ones, in dealing with Pyongyang, which has pursued its weapons programs in defiance of ever tougher U.N. sanctions. Signs of a thaw emerged this year, with North and South Korea resuming talks and North Korea attending the Winter Olympics. During the Pyongyang talks this week, the two Koreas agreed to hold their first summit since 2007 in late April. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has said sanctions should not be eased for the sake of talks and that nothing less than denuclearization of North Korea should be the final goal for talks. China?s foreign minister, Wang Yi, called on the United States and North Korea to hold talks as soon as possible, warning at a news briefing in Beijing on Thursday that things ?will not be smooth sailing?.
  21. The masthead of US President Donald Trump's Twitter account (@realDonaldTrump) as of July 11, 2017. @realDonaldTrump/Handout via REUTERS/Files NEW YORK: A federal judge on Thursday expressed scepticism about whether US President Donald Trump can constitutionally block Twitter users whose views he does not like from following and retweeting from his own Twitter account. At a hearing in Manhattan federal court, US District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald asked Trump?s lawyer Michael Baer whether letting Trump bar users from @realDonaldTrump would violate their First Amendment free speech rights. She asked whether Twitter was different from a public town hall, where government officials would be unable to pull the plug from a microphone to mute speakers with unwelcome views. ?Once it is a public forum, you can?t shut somebody up because you don?t like what they?re saying,? Buchwald said. Baer said the appropriate analogy was not a town hall, but rather Trump choosing to walk away from someone at a public event. ?The president has an associational interest in deciding who he?s going to spend his time with in that setting,? he said. Buchwald scheduled the hearing to consider Trump?s request to dismiss a lawsuit filed in July over his use of Twitter by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and several Twitter users. They said Trump?s account is a public forum, and that the president cannot block Twitter users simply because they criticize, mock or disagree with him in replies to his tweets. Trump?s Twitter use draws intense interest for his unvarnished commentary, including attacks on critics. His tweets often shape news and are retweeted tens of thousands of times. Baer, who works for the US Department of Justice, has also argued that Trump?s use of Twitter was personal, and did not qualify as a ?state action.? In contrast, Katherine Fallow, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told Buchwald the record ?shows unambiguously that the president operates his account in an official capacity.? She said Trump often uses Twitter to announce policies or policy proposals, such as banning the military from accepting transgender recruits. Twitter lets users post snippets of text, called tweets, to which other users may respond. When one user blocks another, the blocked user cannot respond to the blocker?s tweets. It is not clear when Buchwald will rule.
  22. WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump vowed Thursday to press ahead with 25 percent tariffs on foreign steel and 10 percent on aluminum - singling out Germany for criticism while saying Mexico, Canada, Australia and "others" could be exempt. "We are going to be very fair, we're going to be very flexible," Trump told his cabinet while pointing to winners and losers from the contentious policy. Trump said Mexico and Canada could get carve-outs if talks to renegotiate the trilateral NAFTA trade agreement go well. "If we reach a deal it is most likely that we won't be charging those two countries the tariffs," he said, adding that Australia would also be spared. "We have a very close relationship with Australia, we have a trade surplus with Australia, great country, long term partner, we´ll be doing something with them," he said. "We'll be doing something with some other countries." But Trump took aim at Germany - the biggest economy in the EU trade bloc - as a bad actor likely to face tariffs. Railing against countries that had "taken advantage" of the United States, Trump accused Germany of behaving unfairly by contributing much less than the US towards the funding of NATO. "We have some friends and some enemies where we have been tremendously taken advantage of over the years on trade and on military," he said. "If you look at NATO, where Germany pays one percent and we are paying 4.2 percent of a much bigger GDP -- that´s not fair," he said. "So we view trade and we view the military, and to a certain extent, they go hand in hand."
  23. Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of far-right group Britain First, arrives at Folkestone Magistrates' Court, Folkestone, England. Image courtesy: The Telegraph via Gareth Fuller/PA LONDON: The deputy leader of far-right group Britain First, who hit the headlines after US President Donald Trump retweeted anti-Muslim videos she posted, was jailed Wednesday for 36 weeks for religiously-aggravated harassment. Jayda Fransen, 31, filmed and posted online videos of people who she wrongly believed were defendants in a rape trial at Canterbury Crown Court in May last year, in a case that led to the conviction of three Muslim men and a teenager. Britain First leader Paul Golding, 36, was also found guilty and jailed for 18 weeks. The pair also posted offensive leaflets to houses in the area where the defendants lived. Judge Justin Barron at Folkestone Magistrates' Court said Golding and Franson had "demonstrated hostility" towards the Muslim faith. "I have no doubt it was their joint intention to use the facts of the case (in Canterbury) for their own political ends," he added. "It was a campaign to draw attention to the race, religion and immigrant background of the defendants." Prosecutor Jaswant Narwal said the case had demonstrated Golding and Franson "were not merely exercising their right to free speech but were instead aiming religiously-aggravated abuse at innocent members of the public. "The victims suffered the distress of the abuse followed by additional stress when the footage was uploaded to the internet," he added. Trump's sharing in November of three inflammatory anti-Muslim videos posted by Britain First, unrelated to the videos in the Folkestone trial, sparked a diplomatic spat with British Prime Minister Theresa May. The retweeting of the controversial videos led to renewed calls for Trump's planned state visit to the UK to be cancelled. He later made a rare apology, saying he did not know the group's background before retweeting.
  24. US President Donald Trump responding to a reporter's question on domestic violence following a working session regarding ?opportunity zones? in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, and adult film actress/director Stormy Daniels attending the 2018 Adult Video News Awards at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino January 27, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo: AFP1 LOS ANGELES: A porn star sued President Donald Trump on Tuesday to declare a "hush agreement" over their alleged affair invalid because he never signed it, documents say. Los Angeles lawyer Michael Avenatti posted on his Twitter account a copy of what appears to be the suit filed on behalf of the porn star who goes by the name Stormy Daniels. Her real name is Stephanie Clifford. The hush agreement does "not exist, because, among other things, Mr Trump never signed" the document with a Superior Court of California stamp, the suit says. It alleges she had an intimate relationship with Trump from 2006 to 2007, which she sought to reveal after Trump won the Republican Party nomination for president and other women claimed to have had sexual encounters with him. With help from his lawyer Michael Cohen, Trump then sought to "aggressively... silence Ms Clifford as part of an effort to avoid her telling the truth, thus helping to ensure he won the presidential election," the document says. Cohen prepared a non-disclosure agreement, a copy of which is attached to the lawsuit and which required a $130,000 payment to be wired from a company known as Essential Consultants LLC to Clifford in return for her silence, according to the documents. Using the pseudonyms Peggy Peterson and David Dennison, Clifford and Trump were to sign the agreement, along with Essential Consultants. Days before the November 2016 presidential election which Trump won, Clifford put her name to the document, as did Cohen for Essential Consultants, it says. "Mr Trump, however, did not sign the agreement, thus rendering it legally null and void and of no consequence," the document adds. Cohen told US media last month that he paid Clifford $130,000, prompting her manager to suggest a non-disclosure agreement had been broken. Cohen declined to give details such as why he made the payment, or if Trump was aware of it at the time. "Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly," Cohen said, according to the New York Times. Trump declined to comment on the issue. The White House has dodged questions about whether allegations of an affair are true, claiming the matter was dealt with during the campaign. Cohen?s comments came after the watchdog group Common Cause filed a federal complaint in January arguing that the payout may have violated campaign finance rules.
  25. Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn speaks during an event to introduce the Republican tax reform plan at the US Capitol in Washington, US, November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein/Files WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump?s top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, said on Tuesday he was resigning, a decision that came after he lost a fight within the White House over plans to impose hefty steel and aluminium tariffs. White House officials said the dispute over tariffs contributed to Cohn?s decision to resign but was not the only reason. One official said there had been several issues that led to the parting, but noted: ?His biggest mission was on the tax cut bill, which he got passed.? The White House said the timing of Cohn?s departure from his role as director of the National Economic Council had not been finalized but was still a few weeks away. It was the latest in a series of high-profile departures from the White House. Following the news of Cohn?s resignation, the US dollar weakened, while an exchange-traded fund tracking the broad market S&P 500 dipped 1 percent. Prices for US government debt barely budged. Trump?s announcement last week of his plans to impose the tariffs sent US stock prices tumbling and came after an intense debate within the White House between Cohn and other advocates of free trade, on one side, and protectionist advisers such as Peter Navarro on the other, according to White House officials. Cohn, who served in the White House for a little more than a year, struck an early rapport with Trump and proved influential in the administration?s decisions last April not to label China a currency manipulator and to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), instead of terminating it. He also emerged as one of the main drivers of the tax overhaul package passed by Congress and signed into law by Trump late last year. The overhaul was Trump?s first major legislative victory. ?It has been an honor to serve my country and enact pro-growth economic policies to benefit the American people, in particular the passage of historic tax reform. I am grateful to the President for giving me this opportunity and wish him and the Administration great success in the future,? Cohn said in a statement issued by the White House. Cohn?s relationship with Trump began to sour last summer, after Cohn disagreed with the president?s tepid response to clashes between neo-Nazis and anti-racism protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, sources close to Cohn said. Cohn, a Democrat, had aligned himself with Trump?s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and the president?s daughter Ivanka Trump, who are both senior White House advisers and like Cohn, are seen as centrists. Cohn, a former president and chief operating officer of investment bank Goldman Sachs, was seen as a bulwark within the White House against protectionist policies. Business lobbyists frequently cited Cohn as their strongest ally in the White House. ?Gary Cohn deserves credit for serving his country in a first class way. I?m sure I join many others who are disappointed to see him leave,? Lloyd Blankfein, the chairman and chief executive of Goldman Sachs and Cohn?s former boss, said on Twitter. In a statement, Trump gave Cohn credit for his role in pushing the tax package through Congress and ?unleashing the American economy once again.? ?He is a rare talent, and I thank him for his dedicated service to the American people,? he said.