Trump Predicts Demise of 2 Prominent US Newspapers

U.S. President Donald Trump contended Sunday two of the country’s top newspapers, The New York Times and The Washington Post, would go out of business when he leaves office.

Trump attacked both newspapers, both of which often publish articles that he labels as “fake news” — stories about his chaotic White House and administration policies that he does not like.

“A poll should be done on which is the more dishonest and deceitful newspaper, the Failing New York Times or the Amazon (lobbyist) Washington Post!” Trump said on Twitter, referring to the Post’s ownership by Jeff Bezos, the founder of the giant online retailer Amazon.

“The good news is that at the end of 6 years, after America has been made GREAT again and I leave the beautiful White House (do you think the people would demand that I stay longer? KEEP AMERICA GREAT), both of these horrible papers will quickly go out of business & be forever gone!” Trump said. He was making an assumption that he is re-elected in 2020 and his White House tenure extends through 2024.

…..news is that at the end of 6 years, after America has been made GREAT again and I leave the beautiful White House (do you think the people would demand that I stay longer? KEEP AMERICA GREAT), both of these horrible papers will quickly go out of business & be forever gone!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 16, 2019

Trump rarely misses an opportunity to attack the U.S. mainstream news media and its coverage of him, but it was not immediately clear what prompted his joint attack on the Times and Post, both of which were founded in the 19th century, and over the years have won dozens of Pulitzer Prizes, journalism’s top award for excellence.

Late Saturday, however, he unleashed a broadside on the Times for its story disclosing that the U.S. had secretly stepped up its online attacks on Russia’s power grid.

“This is a virtual act of Treason by a once great paper so desperate for a story, any story, even if bad for our Country,” he tweeted.

…..ALSO, NOT TRUE! Anything goes with our Corrupt News Media today. They will do, or say, whatever it takes, with not even the slightest thought of consequence! These are true cowards and without doubt, THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 16, 2019

 

 

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Israel Moves to Name Golan Settlement After Trump

The Trump name graces apartment towers, hotels and golf courses. Now it is the namesake of a tiny Israeli settlement in the Israel-controlled Golan Heights.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Cabinet convened in this hamlet Sunday to inaugurate a new settlement named after President Donald Trump in a gesture of appreciation for the U.S. leader’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the territory.

The settlement isn’t exactly new. Currently known as Bruchim, it is over 30 years old and has a population of 10 people.

Israel is hoping the rebranded “Ramat Trump,” Hebrew for “Trump Heights,” will encourage a wave of residents to vastly expand it.

“It’s absolutely beautiful,” said U.S. Ambassador David Friedman, who attended Sunday’s ceremony. Noting that Trump celebrated his birthday Friday, he said: “I can’t think of a more appropriate and a more beautiful birthday present.”

United States Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and his wife, Tammy, attend the inauguration of a new settlement named after U.S. president Donald Trump in the Golan Heights, June 16, 2019.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed it in 1981. Most of the international community considers the move illegal under international law.

But during a visit to Washington by Netanyahu in March, just weeks before Israeli elections, Trump signed an executive order recognizing the strategic mountainous plateau as Israeli territory. The decision, the latest in a series of diplomatic moves benefiting Israel, was widely applauded in Israel.

“Few things are more important to the security of the state of Israel than permanent sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” Friedman said. “It is simply obvious, it is indisputable and beyond any reasonable debate.”

After the Cabinet decision, Netanyahu and Friedman unveiled a sign trimmed in gold with the name “Trump Heights” and adorned with U.S. and Israeli flags.

Addressing the ceremony, Netanyahu called Trump a “great friend” of Israel and described the Golan, which overlooks northern Israel, as an important strategic asset.

“The Golan Heights was and will always be an inseparable part of our country and homeland,” he said.

Obstacles to development

Developing Ramat Trump will not be easy. Ringed by high yellow grass and landmines, it is roughly 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the Syrian border and a half hour drive from the nearest Israeli town, Kiryat Shmona, a community of about 20,000 people near the Lebanese border.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a ceremony to unveil a sign for a new community named after U.S. President Donald Trump, in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, June 16, 2019.

According to Israeli figures, almost 50,000 people live in the Golan, including about 22,000 Jewish Israelis and nearly 25,000 Arab Druze residents.

While Israel has encouraged and promoted settlement in the Golan, its remote location, several hours from the economic center of Tel Aviv, has been an obstacle. The area is home to small agriculture and tourism sectors but otherwise has little industry. 
 
The eight-year Syrian civil war, which at times has resulted in spillover fire into the Golan, also could present an obstacle to luring new residents.

Rosa Zhernakov, a resident of Bruchim since 1991, said the community was excited by Sunday’s decision.

“We hope it will benefit the Golan Heights,” she said, standing outside her bungalow on one of Bruchim’s few streets. She said the revitalization of the settlement will mean “more security” for residents from any possible return of the Golan Heights to Syria as part of a future peace treaty.

Syria has demanded a return of the strategic territory, which overlooks northern Israel, as part of any peace deal. After the devastating civil war in Syria, the prospects of peace talks with Israel anytime soon seem extremely low.

Vladimir Belotserkovsky, 75, another veteran resident, said he welcomed any move to build up the settlement. 
 
“We certainly thank, and I personally, am satisfied by the fact that they’re founding the new settlement named for Trump,” he said.

‘No funding, no planning’

Ramat Trump joins a handful of Israeli places named after American presidents, including a village for Harry S. Truman, who first recognized the Jewish state, and George W. Bush Plaza, a square the size of a modest living room in central Jerusalem.  
 
Following Sunday’s decision to rename the community, developing the settlement still requires overcoming several additional bureaucratic obstacles. With Netanyahu running for re-election in the second national election this year, it remains unclear whether he will be able to complete the task.

Zvi Hauser, an opposition lawmaker who formerly served as Netanyahu’s Cabinet secretary, called Sunday’s ceremony a cheap PR stunt.

“There’s no funding, no planning, no location, and there’s no real binding decision,” he said.
 

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US Guarantees Hormuz Shipping Passage

The United States says it will “guarantee freedom of navigation” for shipping through the Strait of Hormuz through diplomatic talks or military intervention, contending again that it was “unmistakable” that Iran launched last week’s attacks on two tankers sailing through the narrow passage.

“These were attacks by the Islamic Republic of Iran on commercial shipping on the freedom of navigation with the clear intent to deny transit through the Strait,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News Sunday.

The top U.S. diplomat said the United States does not want war with Tehran, but it will ensure passage through the chokepoint that links the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman, a hook-shaped body of water through which as much as a third of the world’s oil supply is shipped.

“The United States is going to make sure that we take all the actions necessary, diplomatic and otherwise, that achieve that outcome,” he told Fox.

Strait of Hormuz

Pompeo told another Sunday news talk show, CBS News’ Face the Nation, that military intervention would be employed if necessary.

Iran has rejected the U.S. accusation it is responsible for the attacks on the Norwegian and Japanese ships, one transporting oil and the other chemicals.

‘Lots of evidence’

The president of the Japanese company operating the Kokuka Courageous tanker said he saw something fly toward the vessel and did not believe the ship was attacked by a mine or torpedo. But the U.S. Defense Department released a grainy video Friday showing what it said was an Iranian boat recovering an unexploded mine from the side of the ship.

Pompeo told Fox, “It’s unmistakable what happened here,” adding the United States “has lots of data, lots of evidence” that Iran was behind the attacks.

This June 13, 2019, image released by the U.S. military’s Central Command, shows damage and a suspected mine on the Kokuka Courageous in the Gulf of Oman near the coast of Iran.

“The world will come to see much of it, but the American people should rest assured we have high confidence with respect to who conducted these attacks, as well as half a dozen other attacks throughout the world over the past 40 days,” he said. 

Nuclear deal

Pompeo said the U.S. is dedicated to keeping Iran from developing nuclear weapons, even as the United States withdrew from the 2015 international pact — which aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting economic sanctions against it. 

The U.S. subsequently reimposed sanctions to curb Iran’s overseas business transactions, but in recent days granted Iraq another 120-day waiver to continue to import Iranian natural gas to power its electrical grid. 

U.S. President Donald Trump said Friday that if Iran blocks the Strait of Hormuz, “it’s not going to be closed for long,” but did not elaborate.

“They know it, and they’ve been told in very strong terms,” Trump said. “We want to get them back at the table, if they want to go back,” he said, referring to U.S. efforts to open bilateral negotiations on a new nuclear deal with Iran.

“I’m ready when they are, but whenever they’re ready, it’s OK,” he told Fox News. “And in the meantime, I’m in no rush. I’m in no rush.”
 

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Taliban, US Set to Hold Crucial Round of Afghan Peace Talks

The United States and the Taliban are scheduled to hold crucial negotiations in Qatar early next week amid high expectations of a breakthrough in a nearly yearlong effort to end the war in Afghanistan. 
 
This would be the seventh round of talks in Doha, Qatar, where the insurgent group maintains an informal political office. The U.S. team is being led by Afghan-born American reconciliation envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. 
 
The dialogue, which excludes the Afghan government, has focused on the withdrawal of American forces from the country in exchange for Taliban assurances that transnational terrorists would be not be allowed to use Afghan soil for attacks against other countries. 
 
U.S. and Taliban negotiators were expected to conclude an agreement covering the two issues in their last meeting in May, but the discussions stalled over the Taliban’s refusal to cease hostilities and participate in an intra-Afghan peace dialogue until Washington announced a troop drawdown timetable. 

FILE – Suhail Shaheen, Taliban spokesman.

Gradual progress seen

A Taliban spokesman has dismissed reported assertions of a stalemate in the dialogue in the wake of U.S. insistence that the final agreement must cover a cease-fire and the insurgent group’s engagement in intra-Afghan talks, involving the Kabul government. 
 
“I don’t see the dialogue is deadlocked. It is progressing, but steadily or gradually,” Suhail Shaheen, who speaks for the insurgent negotiating team, told VOA ahead of the upcoming talks. 
 
“I hope with the announcement of a timetable for withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan, the process may gain momentum, paving the way for the Afghans to sit together and chart a road map for a future Islamic system and government,” Shaheen said. 
 
Khalilzad, in a statement ahead of the upcoming meeting with the Taliban, also vowed he would “try to bring the first two parts of our peace framework to closure,” but he emphasized success would require other parties to show flexibility. 

“We hope Khalilzad will deliver what he has promised — that he would try to bring to closure the framework for peace on these two issues,” Shaheen said when asked to respond to comments by the chief American negotiator. 

Two-day session

Official sources in Kabul, meanwhile, have told VOA a two-day peace dialogue among Afghans, including government and Taliban representatives, is being arranged in Doha early next month. The sources said the meeting was scheduled for July 7 and would be an outcome of the upcoming U.S.-Taliban negotiations. 
 
The Taliban are opposed to any direct talks with Afghan government officials, dismissing them as American “puppets.” But the insurgent group, Taliban officials said, is not averse to a peace dialogue with a delegation representing all sections of the Afghan society, including government officials in their individual capacity. 

While Washington has engaged in direct talks with the Taliban, a top American military commander noted this week that strongholds of the Islamic State group in eastern Afghan provinces “are very worrisome to us.” 

FILE – In this April 14, 2018, file photo, then-Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie speaks during a media availability at the Pentagon in Washington.

Strong pressure seen

However, Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, said earlier this week that IS was under strong military pressure in Afghanistan. 
 
American forces and their Afghan partners routinely attack IS bases in the country while Taliban insurgents also regularly clash with loyalists of the Middle Eastern-based terrorist group. 
 
“ISIS in Afghanistan certainly has aspirations to attack the United States. … It is our clear judgment that as long as we maintain pressure on them, it will be hard for them to do that,” McKenzie, using an acronym for Islamic State, told reporters in Germany. 
 
But the Taliban swiftly rejected McKenzie’s assertions as baseless and alleged they were aimed at justifying the U.S. military presence in the country. 
 
“Their occupation is practically providing Daesh a ground in Afghanistan, and they are using its name and existence as an instrument,” alleged Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, using the local name for IS. 
 
Mujahid claimed the Taliban had cleared many Afghan areas of IS, and he accused American forces as well as their local partners of launching aerial strikes against Taliban positions in areas where the insurgents are battling IS militants. 

‘Creating hurdles’

“If American generals really fear from Daesh, then why are they avoiding its elimination and creating hurdles against mujahedeen operations? Statements of American generals are opposite of their actions,” Mujahid said. 
 

FILE – Security personnel display weapons and equipment used in a suicide bomb attack and gunfight at the Interior Ministry, in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 30, 2018. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack.

American military officials, for their part, have reportedly insisted the Taliban have not done enough to fight IS, particularly in the eastern Afghan provinces of Nangarhar and Kunar, where the terrorist group has set up bases. 
 
“But not only are the Taliban mostly avoiding fighting the Islamic State, they are also feeding its ranks. Taliban insurgents serve as one of the Islamic State’s primary recruiting pools, and they often bring a wealth of combat experience with them, according to the officials,” the U.S. military officials told The New York Times
 
U.S. interlocutors in continuing direct talks with Taliban envoys in Qatar have proposed to leave behind a counterterrorism force in Afghanistan after any peace agreement to fight IS. 
 
Taliban negotiators, however, have rejected the proposal, insisting their fighters could handle and defeat the Islamic State loyalists, according the Times

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Census Says More Than 60% of US Men Are Fathers

Fathers in the U.S. tend to be better educated than men without children, and relatively few men have children over age 40.

These are some of the conclusions in a report released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau, just in time for Father’s Day.

The data in the report came from 2014, when the bureau for the first time asked both men and women about their fertility histories.  The goal of the report was to shed greater light on men’s fertility, a topic about which less is known than that of women’s fertility, according to the Census Bureau. 

“In recent decades, there has been growing public and academic interest in fathers and fatherhood given the importance of fathers in children’s lives,” the report said.

It found more than 60% of the 121 million adult men in the U.S. were fathers.

About three-quarters of fathers were married. Almost 13% of dads were divorced and 8% had never been married. 

Just under a quarter of U.S. men between ages 40 and 50 were childless, and about 17% had never been married by the time they reached their 40s. Both figures were noticeably higher than for women who had reached middle age. Just under 16% of women between the ages of 40 and 50 were childless, and 14% had never been married, according to the report.

Workforce participation

There were also noticeable differences in workforce participation between fathers and mothers with young children. Nearly 90% of fathers whose youngest child was under age 6 were employed, while that figure was only around 60% for mothers, according to the report. There was no difference between the sexes for childless men and women. 

Men with children tended to be more educated than those without kids, although the report noted that might be the result of age, since the chances of becoming fathers and reaching higher education levels increases with age.

Fatherhood also varied by race, ethnic background and age.

Almost 30% of Hispanics in their 20s were fathers. That was true for about a quarter of black men, more than a fifth of white men and an eighth of Asian men.

By the time men reached their 40s, those disparities had narrowed. More than 83% of Hispanics were fathers, around 80% of black and Asian men were dads and around three-quarters of white men were fathers. 

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Advocates Seek Quick Release of Migrant Kids Detained in US

Immigrant advocates have filed legal documents to try to force the administration of President Donald Trump to quickly release immigrant children from a Florida detention center.

The advocates accuse the administration of violating a decades-old settlement that they say requires that children be promptly released to relatives or other sponsors or sent to child care facilities.

That settlement is overseen by U.S. Judge Dolly Gee in Los Angeles. 
 
In a court filing Friday, the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law and other advocacy groups asked Gee for permission to seek a court order requiring the release of children within 14 days.

A call seeking comment from the U.S. Department of Justice was not immediately returned.

Advocates say hundreds of children are held in prison-like conditions in Homestead, Florida.
 

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US Jurors Hear Recording of Suspect in Chinese Scholar’s Slaying

Jurors in Illinois heard a third day of testimony in the death-penalty trial of a former University of Illinois doctoral student who is accused of killing a visiting scholar from China.

The jurors in the federal trial Friday heard secretly recorded audio in which the suspect, Brendt Christensen, 29, allegedly describes to his girlfriend how he killed 26-year-old Chinese scholar, Yingying Zhang.

On the recording, Christensen tells his girlfriend about choking Zhang and called the Chinese woman “valiant” as she tried to fight back.

The Champaign News-Gazette has reported that Christensen’s girlfriend made the recording when she wore a wire for the FBI.

Prosecutors accuse Christensen of posing as a police officer to lure Zhang into his car June 9, 2017. They say he had been fantasizing about killing someone before he abducted Zhang.

During the trial’s opening Wednesday, defense attorneys for Christensen made the rare admission that their client is guilty, in an effort to spare him a possible death sentence. However, defense attorneys have disputed some details from prosecutors about how and why Christensen killed Zhang. Zhang’s body has not been found.

The trial is being held in Peoria, Illinois, after a judge agreed with defense lawyers that pretrial publicity would have made it difficult for Christensen to get a fair trial in the Champaign area, where the university is located.

The University of Illinois has more than 5,000 Chinese students among its 45,000-student body.
 

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Is Receiving Foreign ‘Oppo Research’ Legal?   

The brouhaha over U.S. President Donald Trump’s “oppo research” comments — that he’d be willing to accept outside foreign government political assistance — comes down to this question:

Is opposition research a “thing of value” that foreign nationals are prohibited from offering to American political campaigns?

In an interview with ABC News on Wednesday, Trump said he’d consider any foreign-sourced information that would help his 2020 re-election bid.

“There is nothing wrong with listening,” Trump said. “If somebody called from a country — Norway — ‘We have information on your opponent.’ Oh. I think I’d want to hear it.”

U.S. Federal Election Commission Commissioner Ellen Weintraub testifies in Washington, May 22, 2019, on “Securing U.S. Election Infrastructure and Protecting Political Discourse.”

FED comments; Trump backpedals

Trump later backpedaled, but the uproar caused by his comments was enough to prompt Ellen Weintraub, the chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission, to release a statement reiterating a long-standing U.S. prohibition on foreign assistance in U.S. elections.

“Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office: It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election,” Weintraub, who was appointed by former President George W. Bush, wrote.

U.S. election law prohibits foreign nationals from making — and U.S. campaigns from soliciting and receiving — “a contribution or a donation of money or other thing of value.”

The law doesn’t say what constitutes a “thing of value.” However, FEC regulations consider all “in-kind contributions” such as office space, equipment and advertising services “things of value.”

Is it a thing of value?

Although the FEC hasn’t ruled on whether opposition research constitutes a thing of value, a spokesman noted that the commission has advised that candidates report “research/research services” as campaign expenditures. In recent years, a number of political campaigns have reported expenses related specifically to opposition research.

U.S. political campaigns spend tens of millions of dollars on opposition or “oppo research” — damaging information gathered for political advantage. In the 2016 election cycle, campaigns and political action committees spent nearly $71 million on “research,” according to Campaign Legal Center.

“Opposition research is something people ordinarily pay for, so in that sense it looks like it could be considered a thing of value and fall within the prescription of the law,” said James Gardner, an election law expert and professor at State University of New York at Buffalo.

But simply “listening” to information derived from foreign sources may rise to the level of a campaign finance violation.

“There are probably First Amendment considerations at work in terms of communication about a political subject,” Gardner said. “I don’t think the federal law was designed to prevent exchange of information.”

Foreigners can’t be paid

U.S. law allows foreign nationals to provide personal services to political campaigns as long as they’re not paid, according to the Campaign Legal Center.

Jennifer Daskal, a professor at American University Washington College of Law, said opposition research can be viewed as a “thing of value” because it costs money to produce it.

“Certainly, opposition research is valuable and it should be understood in my view as a thing of value,” Daskal said.

But determining the cost of the research is tricky and important in terms of its legal consequences. While campaign finance violations involving $2,000 to $25,000 during a calendar year carry a maximum penalty of one year in prison, a smaller violation may result in a simple fine.

Congressional action needed

To shield U.S. elections from foreign interference, Daskal said, Congress must pass legislation requiring political candidates to report any offer of assistance from foreign governments to the FBI.

“It’s important that … the Department of Justice and the intel community have information that they need to follow up and help protect against undue influence,” she said.

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