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Trump bypasses Congress on Saudi arms sales, citing Iran threat

The Trump administration on Friday informed Congress the president will invoke his emergency authority to bypass lawmakers' approval of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, citing the threat to the United States from Iran.

The move comes as Trump announced plans Friday to send about 1,600 troops to the Middle East amid rising tensions with Iran.

TRUMP APPROVES PENTAGON PLAN TO SEND MORE U.S. TROOPS TO MIDDLE EAST

"Iran’s malign activity poses a fundamental threat to the stability of the Middle East and to Americans at home and abroad. We took this step of prudent diplomatic deterrence to augment our partners’ long-term capacity for self-defense and threat mitigation," a senior State Department official told Fox News.

The official added, "Congress won’t act, but we will. "

The administration is using an emergency loophole in the Arms Export Control Act to move ahead with sales of $7 billion in precision-guided munitions, other bombs, ammo and aircraft maintenance support to Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, without lawmakers' approval.

The chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, said he was "reviewing and analyzing the legal justification for this action and the associated implications."

The administration pointed out that this authority has been invoked by past presidents on multiple occasions, including in 1979, 1984, 1990 and 2006.

The plan was swiftly condemned by Democratic senators.

“I am disappointed, but not surprised, that the Trump administration has failed once again to prioritize our long-term national security interests or stand up for human rights, and instead is granting favors to authoritarian countries like Saudi Arabia,” said New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“President Trump circumventing Congress to sell more weapons to Saudi Arabia is unacceptable,” said California Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

“President Trump is only using this loophole because he knows Congress would disapprove of this sale,” said Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In his notification, Pompeo said he had made the determination "that an emergency exists which requires the immediate sale" of the weapons "in order to deter further the malign influence of the government of Iran throughout the Middle East region." He said the transfers "must occur as quickly as possible in order to deter further Iranian adventurism in the Gulf and throughout the Middle East."

It comes as the administration has actively courted close ties with Saudi Arabia over congressional objections, notably following the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S.-based columnist for The Washington Post, by Saudi agents in October.

There is a precedent for using the emergency exemption for arms sales to Saudi Arabia. President Ronald Reagan invoked it in the 1980s, and both Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush used it for sales before the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 Iraq war, respectively.

Fox News’ Rich Edson, Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

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U.S. deploys more troops to Middle East, blames Iran for tanker attacks

An F/A-18F Super Hornet from the
An F/A-18F Super Hornet from the "Patriots" of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 140 flies over the U. S. aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), in Arabian Sea, May 22, 2019. Picture taken May 22, 2019. Garrett LaBarge/U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS

May 24, 2019

By Phil Stewart, Idrees Ali and Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Friday announced the deployment of 1,500 troops to the Middle East, describing it as an effort to bolster defenses against Iran as it accused the country’s Revolutionary Guards of direct responsibility for this month’s tanker attacks.

President Donald Trump’s administration also invoked the threat from Iran to declare a national security-related emergency that would clear the sale of billions of dollars’ worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other countries without required congressional approval.

The actions were the latest by the Trump administration as it highlights what it sees as a threat of potential attack by Iran, and follows decisions to speed the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group as well as send bombers and additional Patriot missiles to the Middle East.

The deployments, decried by Iran as escalatory, have come amid a freeze in direct communication between the United States and Iran that has raised concerns about the increasing risk of an inadvertent conflict.

Trump, however, described the latest deployments as defensive, in nature. The 1,500 troops include personnel manning missile defense systems, aerial surveillance to spot threats and engineers to fortify defenses. It also includes a fighter jet squadron.

“We want to have protection in the Middle East. We’re going to be sending a relatively small number of troops, mostly protective,” Trump said as he left the White House for a trip to Japan.

The decision on troops marks a reversal of sorts for Trump, who only on Thursday said he thought no more forces were needed. Trump has sought to detangle the U.S. military from open-ended conflicts in places like Syria and Afghanistan.

The deployment is relatively small compared with the about 70,000 American troops now stationed across a region that stretches from Egypt to Afghanistan. In addition, some 600 of the 1,500 “new” troops are already in the Middle East manning Patriot missiles, but will see their deployments extended.

Still, the Democratic lawmaker who heads the House Armed Services Committee, Adam Smith, said the deployment “appears to be a blatant and heavy-handed move to further escalate tensions with Iran.”

Eager to avoid escalation with Iran amid already heightened tensions, Pentagon officials stressed the defensive nature of the deployment in a news briefing and noted that none of the troops would be heading to hot spots like Iraq or Syria.

At the same time, the U.S. State Department informed Congress that it will go ahead with 22 arms deals worth some $8 billion, congressional aides said, sweeping aside a long-standing precedent for congressional review of such sales.

Some lawmakers and congressional aides had warned earlier this week that Trump, frustrated with Congress holding up weapons sales like a major deal to sell Raytheon Co precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia, was considering using the loophole to go ahead with the sale.

ATTACKS ON TANKERS

Rear Admiral Michael Gilday, the director of the Joint Staff, on Friday described U.S. intelligence portraying a new Iranian “campaign” that used old tactics, and stretched from Iraq to Yemen to the waters in the Strait of Hormuz, a vital maritime chokepoint for the global oil trade.

“We believe with a high degree of confidence that this stems back to the leadership of Iran at the highest levels and that all of the attacks that I mentioned have been attributed to Iran through their proxies or their forces,” he said.

Gilday accused Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) of being directly responsible for attacks on tankers off the United Arab Emirates earlier this month, in what could be a foreshadowing of the conclusion of ongoing investigations into the incident.

“The attack against the shipping in Fujairah, we attribute it to the IRGC,” Gilday said, explaining that the Pentagon attributed limpet mines used in the attack directly to the IRGC.

He declined to describe “the means of delivery” of the mines, however.

A Norwegian-registered oil products tanker and a UAE fuel bunker barge were among four vessels hit near Fujairah emirate, one of the world’s largest bunkering hubs located just outside the Strait of Hormuz.

Gilday also accused Iran-backed “proxy” forces of carrying out a rocket attack in Baghdad’s Green Zone last week.

The Pentagon did not provide evidence to support its claims but said it hoped to further declassify intelligence supporting them. Iran has dismissed the accusations entirely and accuses the United States of brinkmanship with its troop deployments.

Trump played down the potential for military conflict in the region, saying he believed Iran did not want a confrontation with the United States – even as Washington tightens sanctions with a goal of pushing Iran to make concessions beyond the terms of its 2015 nuclear deal.

Trump pulled out of the international deal between Iran and six major world powers last year.

“Right now, I don’t think Iran wants to fight. And I certainly don’t think they want to fight with us,” Trump said.

“But they cannot have nuclear weapons,” he continued. “They can’t have nuclear weapons. And they understand that.”

(Reporting by Phil Stewart, Idrees Ali and Roberta Rampton in Washington, additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Paul Simao, Susan Thomas and James Dalgleish)

Source: OANN

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French police hunt suitcase bomber after blast in Lyon

Police officers are seen near the site of a suspected bomb attack in central Lyon
Police officers are seen near the site of a suspected bomb attack in central Lyon, France May 24, 2019. REUTERS/Emmanuel Foudrot

May 24, 2019

LYON (Reuters) – French police were hunting a suspected suitcase bomber on Friday after an explosion in the central city of Lyon that injured 13 people, officials said.

The suspect was captured on security video leaving a bag in front of a bakery shortly before an explosion occurred at around 5:30 pm, police sources and local mayor Denis Broliquier said.

Most of those hurt were hospitalized for treatment to leg injuries that were described as light.

President Emmanuel Macron characterized the incident as an “attack” when the news broke during a live YouTube interview ahead of Sunday’s European elections. “My thoughts are with the injured,” he said.

Paris anti-terrorism prosecutors opened an investigation as police said they were treating the blast as an attempted homicide, and Interior Minister Christophe Castaner headed to the scene.

The partially masked suspect appeared in security camera footage wheeling a bicycle to the scene, before leaving a bag outside a branch of Brioche Doree, a popular bakery chain.

Police sources described the suspected attacker as a European or North African male, seen wearing beige Bermuda shorts, an army-green scarf or head wrap and dark glasses.

Soon after he left, the blast rained metal bolts on passersby in front of the premises on rue Victor Hugo, several blocks from the city’s main station, according to police.

Police forces across France have been instructed to increase security in public places and event venues, Castaner said.

(Reporting by Catherine Lagrange in Lyon, Emmanuel Jarry and Marine Pennetier in Paris; Writing by Laurence Frost; Editing by Peter Graff)

Source: OANN

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Trump bypasses Congress on Saudi arms sales, citing Iran threat

The Trump administration on Friday informed Congress the president will invoke his emergency authority to bypass lawmakers' approval of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, citing the threat to the United States from Iran.

The move comes as Trump announced plans Friday to send about 1,600 troops to the Middle East amid rising tensions with Iran.

TRUMP APPROVES PENTAGON PLAN TO SEND MORE U.S. TROOPS TO MIDDLE EAST

"Iran’s malign activity poses a fundamental threat to the stability of the Middle East and to Americans at home and abroad. We took this step of prudent diplomatic deterrence to augment our partners’ long-term capacity for self-defense and threat mitigation," a senior State Department official told Fox News.

The official added, "Congress won’t act, but we will. "

The administration is using an emergency loophole in the Arms Export Control Act to move ahead with sales of $7 billion in precision-guided munitions, other bombs, ammo and aircraft maintenance support to Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, without lawmakers' approval.

The chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, said he was "reviewing and analyzing the legal justification for this action and the associated implications."

The administration pointed out that this authority has been invoked by past presidents on multiple occasions, including in 1979, 1984, 1990 and 2006.

The plan was swiftly condemned by Democratic senators.

“I am disappointed, but not surprised, that the Trump administration has failed once again to prioritize our long-term national security interests or stand up for human rights, and instead is granting favors to authoritarian countries like Saudi Arabia,” said New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“President Trump circumventing Congress to sell more weapons to Saudi Arabia is unacceptable,” said California Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

“President Trump is only using this loophole because he knows Congress would disapprove of this sale,” said Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In his notification, Pompeo said he had made the determination "that an emergency exists which requires the immediate sale" of the weapons "in order to deter further the malign influence of the government of Iran throughout the Middle East region." He said the transfers "must occur as quickly as possible in order to deter further Iranian adventurism in the Gulf and throughout the Middle East."

It comes as the administration has actively courted close ties with Saudi Arabia over congressional objections, notably following the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S.-based columnist for The Washington Post, by Saudi agents in October.

There is a precedent for using the emergency exemption for arms sales to Saudi Arabia. President Ronald Reagan invoked it in the 1980s, and both Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush used it for sales before the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 Iraq war, respectively.

Fox News’ Rich Edson, Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

The Trump administration on Friday informed Congress the president will invoke his emergency authority to bypass lawmakers’ approval of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, citing the threat to the United States from Iran.

The move comes as Trump announced plans Friday to send about 1,600 troops to the Middle East amid rising tensions with Iran.

TRUMP APPROVES PENTAGON PLAN TO SEND MORE U.S. TROOPS TO MIDDLE EAST

“Iran’s malign activity poses a fundamental threat to the stability of the Middle East and to Americans at home and abroad. We took this step of prudent diplomatic deterrence to augment our partners’ long-term capacity for self-defense and threat mitigation,” a senior State Department official told Fox News.

The official added, “Congress won’t act, but we will. “

The administration is using an emergency loophole in the Arms Export Control Act to move ahead with sales of $7 billion in precision-guided munitions, other bombs, ammo and aircraft maintenance support to Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, without lawmakers’ approval.

The chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, said he was “reviewing and analyzing the legal justification for this action and the associated implications.”

The administration pointed out that this authority has been invoked by past presidents on multiple occasions, including in 1979, 1984, 1990 and 2006.

The plan was swiftly condemned by Democratic senators.

“I am disappointed, but not surprised, that the Trump administration has failed once again to prioritize our long-term national security interests or stand up for human rights, and instead is granting favors to authoritarian countries like Saudi Arabia,” said New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“President Trump circumventing Congress to sell more weapons to Saudi Arabia is unacceptable,” said California Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

“President Trump is only using this loophole because he knows Congress would disapprove of this sale,” said Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In his notification, Pompeo said he had made the determination “that an emergency exists which requires the immediate sale” of the weapons “in order to deter further the malign influence of the government of Iran throughout the Middle East region.” He said the transfers “must occur as quickly as possible in order to deter further Iranian adventurism in the Gulf and throughout the Middle East.”

It comes as the administration has actively courted close ties with Saudi Arabia over congressional objections, notably following the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S.-based columnist for The Washington Post, by Saudi agents in October.

There is a precedent for using the emergency exemption for arms sales to Saudi Arabia. President Ronald Reagan invoked it in the 1980s, and both Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush used it for sales before the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 Iraq war, respectively.

Fox News’ Rich Edson, Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

An F/A-18F Super Hornet from the
An F/A-18F Super Hornet from the “Patriots” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 140 flies over the U. S. aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), in Arabian Sea, May 22, 2019. Picture taken May 22, 2019. Garrett LaBarge/U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS

May 24, 2019

By Phil Stewart, Idrees Ali and Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Friday announced the deployment of 1,500 troops to the Middle East, describing it as an effort to bolster defenses against Iran as it accused the country’s Revolutionary Guards of direct responsibility for this month’s tanker attacks.

President Donald Trump’s administration also invoked the threat from Iran to declare a national security-related emergency that would clear the sale of billions of dollars’ worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other countries without required congressional approval.

The actions were the latest by the Trump administration as it highlights what it sees as a threat of potential attack by Iran, and follows decisions to speed the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group as well as send bombers and additional Patriot missiles to the Middle East.

The deployments, decried by Iran as escalatory, have come amid a freeze in direct communication between the United States and Iran that has raised concerns about the increasing risk of an inadvertent conflict.

Trump, however, described the latest deployments as defensive, in nature. The 1,500 troops include personnel manning missile defense systems, aerial surveillance to spot threats and engineers to fortify defenses. It also includes a fighter jet squadron.

“We want to have protection in the Middle East. We’re going to be sending a relatively small number of troops, mostly protective,” Trump said as he left the White House for a trip to Japan.

The decision on troops marks a reversal of sorts for Trump, who only on Thursday said he thought no more forces were needed. Trump has sought to detangle the U.S. military from open-ended conflicts in places like Syria and Afghanistan.

The deployment is relatively small compared with the about 70,000 American troops now stationed across a region that stretches from Egypt to Afghanistan. In addition, some 600 of the 1,500 “new” troops are already in the Middle East manning Patriot missiles, but will see their deployments extended.

Still, the Democratic lawmaker who heads the House Armed Services Committee, Adam Smith, said the deployment “appears to be a blatant and heavy-handed move to further escalate tensions with Iran.”

Eager to avoid escalation with Iran amid already heightened tensions, Pentagon officials stressed the defensive nature of the deployment in a news briefing and noted that none of the troops would be heading to hot spots like Iraq or Syria.

At the same time, the U.S. State Department informed Congress that it will go ahead with 22 arms deals worth some $8 billion, congressional aides said, sweeping aside a long-standing precedent for congressional review of such sales.

Some lawmakers and congressional aides had warned earlier this week that Trump, frustrated with Congress holding up weapons sales like a major deal to sell Raytheon Co precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia, was considering using the loophole to go ahead with the sale.

ATTACKS ON TANKERS

Rear Admiral Michael Gilday, the director of the Joint Staff, on Friday described U.S. intelligence portraying a new Iranian “campaign” that used old tactics, and stretched from Iraq to Yemen to the waters in the Strait of Hormuz, a vital maritime chokepoint for the global oil trade.

“We believe with a high degree of confidence that this stems back to the leadership of Iran at the highest levels and that all of the attacks that I mentioned have been attributed to Iran through their proxies or their forces,” he said.

Gilday accused Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) of being directly responsible for attacks on tankers off the United Arab Emirates earlier this month, in what could be a foreshadowing of the conclusion of ongoing investigations into the incident.

“The attack against the shipping in Fujairah, we attribute it to the IRGC,” Gilday said, explaining that the Pentagon attributed limpet mines used in the attack directly to the IRGC.

He declined to describe “the means of delivery” of the mines, however.

A Norwegian-registered oil products tanker and a UAE fuel bunker barge were among four vessels hit near Fujairah emirate, one of the world’s largest bunkering hubs located just outside the Strait of Hormuz.

Gilday also accused Iran-backed “proxy” forces of carrying out a rocket attack in Baghdad’s Green Zone last week.

The Pentagon did not provide evidence to support its claims but said it hoped to further declassify intelligence supporting them. Iran has dismissed the accusations entirely and accuses the United States of brinkmanship with its troop deployments.

Trump played down the potential for military conflict in the region, saying he believed Iran did not want a confrontation with the United States – even as Washington tightens sanctions with a goal of pushing Iran to make concessions beyond the terms of its 2015 nuclear deal.

Trump pulled out of the international deal between Iran and six major world powers last year.

“Right now, I don’t think Iran wants to fight. And I certainly don’t think they want to fight with us,” Trump said.

“But they cannot have nuclear weapons,” he continued. “They can’t have nuclear weapons. And they understand that.”

(Reporting by Phil Stewart, Idrees Ali and Roberta Rampton in Washington, additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Paul Simao, Susan Thomas and James Dalgleish)

Source: OANN

Police officers are seen near the site of a suspected bomb attack in central Lyon
Police officers are seen near the site of a suspected bomb attack in central Lyon, France May 24, 2019. REUTERS/Emmanuel Foudrot

May 24, 2019

LYON (Reuters) – French police were hunting a suspected suitcase bomber on Friday after an explosion in the central city of Lyon that injured 13 people, officials said.

The suspect was captured on security video leaving a bag in front of a bakery shortly before an explosion occurred at around 5:30 pm, police sources and local mayor Denis Broliquier said.

Most of those hurt were hospitalized for treatment to leg injuries that were described as light.

President Emmanuel Macron characterized the incident as an “attack” when the news broke during a live YouTube interview ahead of Sunday’s European elections. “My thoughts are with the injured,” he said.

Paris anti-terrorism prosecutors opened an investigation as police said they were treating the blast as an attempted homicide, and Interior Minister Christophe Castaner headed to the scene.

The partially masked suspect appeared in security camera footage wheeling a bicycle to the scene, before leaving a bag outside a branch of Brioche Doree, a popular bakery chain.

Police sources described the suspected attacker as a European or North African male, seen wearing beige Bermuda shorts, an army-green scarf or head wrap and dark glasses.

Soon after he left, the blast rained metal bolts on passersby in front of the premises on rue Victor Hugo, several blocks from the city’s main station, according to police.

Police forces across France have been instructed to increase security in public places and event venues, Castaner said.

(Reporting by Catherine Lagrange in Lyon, Emmanuel Jarry and Marine Pennetier in Paris; Writing by Laurence Frost; Editing by Peter Graff)

Source: OANN

President Trump’s administration will reportedly reverse his predecessor’s policy of blocking federal funding for religious adoption organizations that refuse to serve same-sex couples.

Administration officials, according to Axios Friday, debated to decide between two different provisions — a religious-based exemption and striking down the previous administration’s rule altogether — to accomplish their goal without facing defeat in the courts.

The policy change would likely come in July and through the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of Civil Rights, a group that has been at the forefront of angering progressives with rules advancing Trump’s religious freedom agenda.

Roger Severino, director of that office, reportedly refused to comment directly on the issue.

PROTECTIONS EXPANDED FOR DOCTORS WITH ‘CONSCIENCE’ OBJECTIONS TO ABORTIONS, OTHER PROCEDURES

The administration’s reported decision reflected a broader battle in which states struggled to balance religious interests with those of same-sex couples. Multiple Catholic adoption agencies have already shut down, refusing to comply with anti-discrimination policies due to Church teaching on marriage and sex.

The reported policy drew swift condemnation from the Human Rights Campaign, which has derided similar measures at the state level.

“Quite literally the definition of cruel and evil,” HRC president Chad Griffin tweeted on Friday.

CHRISTIAN ADOPTION AGENCY SUES NEW YORK AFTER STATE TRIES TO SHUT IT DOWN

“Our leaders should be making it easier for children in need of a loving home to find one, not trying to find new ways to license discrimination,” he added. “This is unconscionable and an attack on families.”

Conservatives have maintained that same-sex couples could seek opportunities with secular agencies. They’ve also argued that without religious exemptions, foster children would lose even more resources as longstanding agencies drop their practices altogether.

In Philadelphia, foster families sued the city over an ordinance that would force Catholic Social Services to end its program. The suit, according to the firm that brought the case, represented the first opportunity to test how courts viewed religious freedom in that context. A Christian adoption agency similarly sued the city of Syracuse after it gave them an ultimatum: serve same-sex couples or close shop.

The Supreme Court eventually dismissed a request to grant a preliminary injunction on behalf of the foster families in Philadelphia. Becket Fund senior counsel Lori Windham, who spearheaded that case, said HHS’s current rules violated the First Amendment.

FEDERAL JUDGE BLOCKS MEDICAID WORK RULES IN SETBACK FOR TRUMP

HHS did not immediately provide comment when requested by Fox News.

“We need all hands on deck finding loving homes for kids. We have already seen this regulation used to try to shut down faith-based agencies in Michigan,” Windham said in a statement provided to Fox News.

“HHS should admit that this rule violates the First Amendment. Then it should remove barriers to the full participation of faith-based adoption agencies.”

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

News of the administration’s decision came on the same day that HHS faced blowback over a rule excluding “gender identity” from sex discrimination protections for health care.

HHS, along with the Education Department, took the controversial step of interpreting Title IX — a sex discrimination statute — as only applying to biological attributes rather than self-described identity.

Source: Fox News Politics

Supporters of Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr gather during a protest calling for neutrality during the ongoing tensions between neighbouring Iran and the USA, in Baghdad
Supporters of Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr gather during a protest calling for neutrality during the ongoing tensions between neighbouring Iran and the USA, in Baghdad, Iraq May 24, 2019. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani

May 24, 2019

By Ahmed Aboulenein

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Thousands of supporters of a populist Iraqi Shi’ite Muslim cleric urged political and factional leaders on Friday to stay out of any conflict between Baghdad’s two biggest allies, Iran and the United States.

Protesters from the movement of Moqtada al-Sadr, who once led Shi’ite militiamen against U.S. forces and is also vocally critical of Iranian influence in Iraq, chanted “no to war” and “yes to Iraq” in central Baghdad and the southern city of Basra.

Iraqis worry that their country will be caught up in any escalation of U.S.-Iranian tensions, which spiked earlier this month when President Donald Trump’s administration said it had sent additional forces to the Middle East to counter alleged threats including from Iranian-backed militias in Iraq.

Politicians and Shi’ite paramilitary leaders have called for calm and the Iraqi government has tried to position itself as a mediator between the two sides.

“We’ve just recovered from Islamic State. Iraq must not be used as a base to try to harm any country. America doesn’t want Iraq to be stable,” said protester Abu Ali Darraji.

There was speculation that Sadr would speak to demonstrators in Baghdad but he did not appear. The firebrand leader, whose political bloc came first in Iraq’s parliamentary election last year, is a friend of neither Washington nor Shi’ite Iran.

The United States once described Sadr as the most dangerous man in Iraq, and designated his militia at the time, the Mehdi Army, a bigger threat to its forces than al Qaeda during an insurgency against U.S. troops after their 2003 invasion.

Sadr campaigned last year on a platform of Iraqi nationalism, opposed to both U.S. and Iranian influence in the country.

Amid rising U.S.-Iran tension, a rocket was fired last week into Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone which houses government buildings and diplomatic missions, but caused no casualties. No group claimed responsibility; U.S. officials say they strongly suspect Iran’s local allies.

The attack came after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Iraqi leaders that if they failed to keep in check powerful Iran-backed militias, Washington would respond with force.

U.S. intelligence had showed militias positioning rockets near bases housing U.S. forces, according to Iraqi security sources.

After pulling out of Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, Trump restored U.S. sanctions on Iran last year and tightened them this month, ordering all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil or face sanctions themselves.

Iraq has said it will send delegations to Washington and Tehran to help calm tensions.

Both Iran and the United States say they do not want war, but security officials and analysts warn that a small incident could spark a new spiral of violence in the volatile region.

(Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; Writing by John Davison; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Source: OANN

Since announcing my campaign to challenge Thom Tillis to represent North Carolina in the U.S. Senate two weeks ago, the Swamp – Washington politicians and their consultants – have come out of the woodwork to challenge my support of President Trump.

In 2016, during the presidential primary, like other conservatives I had my doubts about Mr. Trump. Without a policy record, I questioned whether he would govern as a conservative.  Like millions of Americans, I could not more delighted, and frankly amazed, at how he has transformed this country in the last two years. His policies and leadership have more than fulfilled his commitment to conservatives and to the American people and I proudly stand with him in his initiatives.

Mr. Tillis, on the other hand, has publicly opposed the president numerous times. My doubts were in 2016. In 2019, Thom Tillis wrote a scathing op-ed opposing the president on the emergency funding for the border wall and he placed it in The Washington Post, the biggest opponent of the president in media, save MSNBC and CNN.

What’s worse, Tillis co-sponsored a bill with liberal Democrat New Jersey Senator Cory Booker to protect the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s search and destroy investigation against President Trump.

When President Trump proposed cuts to foreign aid spending by 30%, Thom Tillis said ‘No.’

Thom Tillis voted to bust President Trump’s 2018 and 2019 budgets by $200 billion and voted to give Congress a veto over President Trump’s tariffs.

Veto power over the most successful negotiating position the President could put us in? 

This is what Washington insiders do, they claim to be something that they are not. Tillis has proven, time after time, that he does not have the president’s back.  When it comes to difficult decisions to do the right thing for the American people, President Trump goes one way, Tillis goes the other. 

The Senate Leadership Fund, the Washington insider Super PAC that ran ads supporting anti-Trump Senator Jeff Flake two years ago, is now trying to tell the media and voters in North Carolina that Tillis is pro-Trump.  I say actions speak louder than words.

That’s why President Trump has turned Washington upside down.  He is actually accomplishing what he told the voters he would do in 2016.  He cut taxes and cut onerous regulations on businesses to allow them to thrive, which they, and the economy have done. Job numbers at an all-time low. On foreign policy, he has crushed ISIS, brought home three hostages and Otto Wambier from North Korea. Despite all the naysayers, President Trump got North Korea to the table, is standing up to Russia and China and Iran and affirming our close alliance with Israel in the Middle East.

President Trump has been the most pro-life president in the last several decades and he has stood strong to protect religious liberty both on the domestic and international front. 

After elected he worked quickly to repeal Obamacare only to be stymied by John McCain.  On his signature issue, he has done everything in his power to build the wall he promised the American people he would build and is getting it done by finding bloated bureaucratic spending that could be better spent on protecting the American people.

Fulfilling your promises to the American people is foreign to the elite powerbrokers in Washington who want to keep the status quo and their padded consulting and lobbying fees. 

The powerbrokers and establishment in U.S. Senate, like Tillis and Mitch McConnell, want to keep their power and have shown they will oppose the president at will to do so.

These are the reasons North Carolinians need a new, fresh, outside-the-Beltway conservative to represent them.  Someone who can admit when they are wrong about this president and who can work with him to continue to fulfill his promises to the American people.

Garland Tucker, a respected entrepreneur, founded Triangle Capital Corporation, in Raleigh, North Carolina.  He is the author of Conservative Heroes: Fourteen Leaders Who Changed America – Jefferson to Reagan.

This opinion piece first appeared in The American Spectator.

Source: NewsMax

Greek PM Tsipras addresses lawmakers during a parliamentary session before a vote on tax breaks in Athens
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras addresses lawmakers during a parliamentary session before a vote on tax breaks in Athens, Greece, May 15, 2019. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

May 24, 2019

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Friday that the European parliament election was also a vote of confidence in his policies, and a minister who is close to him said an early national election was possible depending on the result.

Tsipras, whose term ends in October, this month announced a package of tax breaks and benefits for pensioners, hit hard since 2010 when the debt crisis broke out. His Syriza party trails the conservative New Democracy party in opinion polls.

Speaking to state ERT TV, the leftist leader said he saw Sunday’s EU election as a vote of confidence on his plan to unravel austerity policies in 2019 and in 2020.

A national election is officially due in October.

Asked if he was considering a snap election in June and whether that hinged on the EU vote result, Tsipras said: “On Sunday, people may not be voting for a government but they will be voting on the policies that will govern the country in the coming years.”

“If these measures are rejected, all (prospects) are open,” Tsipras said, without providing details.

“Any percentage of defeat for the Syriza party … would open a discussion that I cannot foretell how would end. We would be entering an adventure,” he said.

State Minister Christoforos Vernadakis, one of Tsipras’ closest aides, said the government would look into its options after the EU vote result.

Asked about the prospect of an early national election in June, he told a local TV station: “I cannot rule it out.”

Greece emerged from its third international bailout in August last year. The debt-laded country has been outperforming fiscal targets agreed with its international creditors, giving Tsipras leeway for handouts.

The government’s latest package almost immediately triggered concern from euro zone finance ministers.

Tsipras said a victory on Sunday would empower him to negotiate with lenders on easing austerity.

(Reporting by Renee Maltezou and George Georgiopoulos; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: An Airbus A318 airplane of Avianca Brazil flies over the Guanabara Bay as it prepares to land at Santos Dumont airport in Rio de Janeiro
FILE PHOTO: An Airbus A318-100 airplane of Avianca Brazil flies over the Guanabara Bay as it prepares to land at Santos Dumont airport in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, April 3, 2019. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes/File Photo

May 24, 2019

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazil’s civil aviation regulator ANAC said on Friday it had suspended all flights and operations of carrier Avianca Brasil in the country as a precautionary measure, following the company’s filing for bankruptcy late last year.

“All the flights are suspended until the company proves it has the capacity to maintain operations safely,” ANAC said in a statement.

Avianca Brasil has filed for bankruptcy protection and lost most of its fleet after lessors obtained favorable court decisions to take aircraft back for lack of payments. It is still trying to reach a deal to sell remaining assets.

The carrier, which is controlled by the same holding company as publicly traded Colombia-based Avianca Holdings SA, was operating around 30 flights per day using the planes it had left.

ANAC said, without elaborating, that it took the decision after receiving information regarding the operational safety of Avianca Brasil flights.

Avianca Brasil confirmed in a statement later on Friday the suspension of its flights and said it would comply with local legislation regarding refunds or finding room for its clients with other carriers.

The company said it would continue to work on its in-court reorganization as it looks to resume operations. It did not respond directly to the concerns ANAC raised.

(Reporting by Marcelo Teixeira; Editing by Tom Brown and Rosalba O’Brien)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: LPGA: ANA Inspiration - First Round
FILE PHOTO: Apr 4, 2019; Rancho Mirage, CA, USA; Michelle Wie tees off on the 13th hole during the first round of the ANA Inspiration golf tournament at Mission Hills CC – Dinah Shore Tournament Course. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

May 24, 2019

(Reuters) – Former U.S. Women’s Open champion Michelle Wie has pulled out of next week’s major tournament because of continuing wrist problems, she said on Friday.

“While I’m making progress with my recovery, I have decided to withdraw from the U.S. Women’s Open,” Wie announced in a statement.

The 2014 champion underwent surgery on her right hand in 2018 but problems returned this year.

“It was a difficult decision to make because the U.S. Open was one that I was looking forward to playing in all year, but my recovery and health is the priority,” the 29-year-old said.

Currently ranked 46th in the world, Wie tied for 23rd in the Honda LPGA Thailand, withdrew in the middle of the first round of the HSBC Women’s World championship and missed the cut in the ANA Inspiration, shooting 74-77.

She has no timeline for returning, but hopes to do so this season.

The U.S. Women’s Open begins on May 30 at the Country Club of Charleston, South Carolina.

Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn is the defending champion.

(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina; Editing by Ken Ferris)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: An Airbus A330 of Avianca airline takes off at the Simon Bolivar airport in Caracas
FILE PHOTO: An Airbus A330 of Avianca airline takes off at the Simon Bolivar airport in Caracas, Venezuela October 23, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo

May 24, 2019

By Marcelo Rochabrun and Sanjana Shivdas

(Reuters) – United Airlines launched a management overhaul at Colombia’s Avianca Holdings on Friday, removing top shareholder German Efromovich from controlling the cash-strapped airline, according to regulatory filings.

United, which is proposing a three-way joint business agreement with Avianca and Panama’s Copa, said the move follows a default by Efromovich’s holding company BRW Aviation on a $456 million loan it made six months ago.

The Chicago-based airline, part of United Continental Holdings Inc, is seeking a deeper foothold in Latin America, which is considered ripe for air travel growth.

United’s loan was backed by Efromovich’s 51.5% stake in Avianca. However, the U.S. airline’s contract with its pilots restricts the company from majority ownership in another carrier. As a result, United is ceding voting rights to Kingsland Holdings, the Colombian carrier’s second-largest shareholder.

Kingsland is controlled by Roberto Kriete, who was embroiled in a long and bitter legal fight with Efromovich over the best strategy for heavily indebted Avianca.

Another Efromovich carrier, Avianca Brasil, filed for bankruptcy protection in December and its operations were suspended on Friday by Brazil’s civil aviation regulator ANAC.

United said it was willing to loan up to $150 million to Avianca Holdings.

(Reporting by Sanjana Shivdas in Bengaluru and Marcelo Rochabrun in Sao Paulo,; Writing by Tracy Rucinski; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Phil Berlowitz)

Source: OANN


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