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Diane A. Wade

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Diane is a perfectionist. She enjoys searching the internet for the hottest events from around the world and writing an article about it. The details matter to her, so she makes sure the information is easy to read and understand. She likes traveling and history, especially ancient history. Being a very sociable person she has a blast having barbeque with family and friends.


President Donald Trump has been widely criticized in the US after defending Russia over claims of interference in the 2016 elections.

At a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Finnish capital, Helsinki, President Trump contradicted US intelligence agencies, saying Russia had no reason to meddle.

Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, said President Trump must see that “Russia is not our ally”.

The president’s own intelligence chief publicly broke with him.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in a statement that Russia is responsible for “ongoing, pervasive attempts” to undermine US democracy.

Vladimir Putin denied the claim.

On July 16, the two leaders held nearly two hours of one-on-one talks without their advisers in Helsinki.

Image NBC News

Maria Butina: Russian Charged with Spying in US

Trump-Putin Summit: Donald Trump Defends Russia over Claims of Election Interference

At a news conference after the summit, President Trump was asked if he believed his own intelligence agencies or the Russian president when it came to allegations of meddling in the election.

He replied: “President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

President Trump also blamed poor relations with Russia on past US administrations rather than Russian actions.

US intelligence agencies concluded in 2016 that Russia was behind an effort to tip the scale of the US election against Hillary Clinton, with a state-authorized campaign of cyber attacks and fake news stories planted on social media.

President Trump later backtracked, tweeting that he had “great confidence in my intelligence people”.

He tweeted: “As I said today and many times before, “I have GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people.” However, I also recognize that in order to build a brighter future, we cannot exclusively focus on the past – as the world’s two largest nuclear powers, we must get along! #HELSINKI2018

A 29-year-old Russian woman has been charged in the US with conspiracy to act as a Russian government agent while infiltrating political groups.

According to media reports, Maria Butina had developed close ties with the GOP and had become an advocate for gun rights.

The charges are not related to Robert Mueller investigation that is examining alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Maria Butina allegedly worked at the direction of a high-level Kremlin official.

Her attorney, Robert Driscoll said in a statement released on July 16 that his client was “not an agent” and instead just an international relations student “who is seeking to use her degree to pursue a career in business”.

Robert Driscoll added the charges were “overblown” and there was “no indication of Maria Butina seeking to influence or undermine any specific policy or law or the United States”.

He said his client had “been co-operating with various government entities for months” over the allegations.

Maria Butina, who lives in Washington, was arrested on July 15 and was held in jail pending a hearing set for July 18, the DOJ said in a statement.

The announcement of Maria Butina’s arrest came hours after President Donald Trump met Russian President Vladimir Putin, and defended the Kremlin against claims of interference in the 2016 presidential election.

President Trump said there had been no reason for Russia to meddle in the vote.

Maria Butina’s arrest also came days after the justice department charged 12 Russian intelligence officers with hacking Democratic officials in the 2016 US elections.

In a sworn statement unsealed on July 16, FBI Special Agent Kevin Helson said Maria Butina’s assignment was to “exploit personal connections with US persons having influence in American politics in an effort to advance the interests of the Russian Federation”.

Maria Butina did so without registering her activities with the US government, as required under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, prosecutors say.

She sought to foster ties with an “organization promoting gun rights”, the DOJ said, without naming any group or politicians.

According to an affidavit, Maria Butina was trying to “establish a <<back channel>> communication for representatives of the Government of Russia”.

The criminal complaint states that Maria Butina focused on developing personal connections with influential US politicians to “advance the interest” of Russia.

Image source VK Page

Trump-Putin Summit: Donald Trump Defends Russia over Claims of Election Interference

As a part of that alleged mission, the complaint says she was organizing an event to further influence “the views of US officials as those views relate to the Russian Federation”.

According to the complaint, Maria Butina reported back to an official in the Russian government about her progress using Twitter direct messages among other means.

In one message, the Russian official told her: “Your political star has risen in the sky. Now it is important to rise to the zenith and not burn out (fall) prematurely.”

The affidavit also states that the unnamed official was sanctioned by the US Treasury.

Maria Butina, originally from Siberia, came to the US on a student visa to study at American University. The complaint alleges that she was in fact secretly working for the Russian government.

The woman founded a group called the Right to Bear Arms before she arrived in America, and US media have previously reported her ties to the National Rifle Association (NRA), the most powerful gun lobby in the US.

Maria Butina has previously denied having worked for the Russian government.

The Washington Post reported that she became an assistant to Russian banker and former senator Alexander Torshin. He was sanctioned by the US Treasury in April.

Alexander Torshin, who is a lifetime member of the NRA, and Maria Butina attended NRA events in the US beginning in 2014.

Maria Butina also attended a Trump campaign event and reportedly asked Donald Trump about his views on foreign relations with Russia.

According to the Washington Post, Donald Trump had answered: “We get along with Putin.”

After face-to-face talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, President Donald Trump has defended Russia over claims of interference in the 2016 presidential election.

President Trump contradicted US intelligence agencies and said there had been no reason for Russia to meddle in the vote.

President Putin reiterated that Russia had never interfered in US affairs.

The two leaders held nearly two hours of closed-door talks in the Finnish capital on July 16.

At a news conference after the summit, Donald Trump was asked if he believed his own intelligence agencies or the Russian president when it came to the allegations of meddling in the elections.

He replied: “President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

Trump-Putin Talks Will Go Ahead Despite Russian Intelligence Officers Indictment

President Donald Trump Prepared to Be Questioned by Robert Mueller

Robert Mueller Investigation: Michael Flynn Admits Making False Statements to FBI

US intelligence agencies concluded in 2016 that Russia was behind an effort to tip the scale of the election against Hillary Clinton, with a state-authorized campaign of cyber attacks and fake news stories planted on social media.

Some US politicians had called for the Trump-Putin summit to be canceled after 12 Russian intelligence officers were indicted last week, accused of hacking the presidential campaign of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Speaking at the press conference in Helsinki, President Putin offered to allow US investigators to visit Russia to question the officers.

Vladimir Putin made it clear that, in return, Russia would want similar access to people in the US it suspects of criminal activity.

Image source Wikipedia

Donald Trump’s first visit official visit to the UK as president took place in between the NATO summit in Brussels and a meeting on July 16 in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Speaking after talks with UK’s PM Theresa May at Chequers, President Trump said the US-UK relationship is “the highest level of special”, while PM May said they had discussed plans for an “ambitious” trade agreement.

President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump later had tea with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor.

Thousands of people have protested in London against President Trump’s UK visit.

A large balloon, portraying Donald Trump as a baby, has been floated in Parliament Square as part of the demonstrations. Other protests are taking place across the UK on July 13 and 14.

Brexit: Donald Trump Hails UK Referendum Result

Donald Trump on Angela Merkel, Brexit and NATO

The Queen greeted President Trump and the first lady as their motorcade arrived at Windsor Castle. The band of the Coldstream Guards played the Star-Spangled Banner and she invited the president to inspect the guard of honor.

Their meeting lasted nearly an hour and was the final engagement in Donald Trump’s two-day working visit to the UK.

The presidential couple took off from Windsor in a helicopter before boarding Air Force One, which flew them to Ayrshire and a weekend stay at his Turnberry golf resort.

Donald Trump and Theresa May’s talks at Chequers took place after The Sun published its wide-ranging interview with the president in which he was critical of the PM’s Brexit plan.

But standing alongside Theresa May after the meeting at her Buckinghamshire country residence, Donald Trump praised her as an “incredible woman” and a “very tough negotiator” who was “doing a fantastic job”, and said there could be a “great” trade deal between the US and UK.

The president said: “I read reports where that won’t be possible, but I believe after speaking with the prime minister’s people and representatives and trade experts it will absolutely be possible.”

At the news conference, Donald Trump said: “The relationship between our two nations is indispensable to the cause of liberty, justice, and peace.”

President Trump described Brexit as a “very tough situation… between the borders and the entries into the countries and all of the things”, saying: “The only thing I ask is that she work it out so that we can have very even trade.”

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Qin Yongmin, one of China’s highest-profile democracy campaigners, has been sentenced to 13 years in jail for “subversion of state power”.

The 64-year-old has already spent a total of 22 years behind bars.

Qin Yongmin had “refused to cooperate with the court” and stayed silent throughout his trial, human rights lawyer Lin Qilei earlier told the AFP.

Image source www.asianews.it

Liu Xiaobo’s Death: China’s Most Prominent Dissident Dies from Liver Cancer Aged 61

The dissident is a co-founder of the China Democracy Party, and was handed a 12-year prison term in 1998 after trying to register it officially. A year later, while still in prison, Qin Yongmin was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Qin Yongmin was leading a pro-democracy group called China Human Rights Watch when he was arrested in January 2015. Its activities included organizing discussion groups and criticizing the government’s policies online.

President Donald Trump has picked Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, setting the stage for a bruising confirmation battle.

In a primetime announcement at the White House, President Trump praised Brett Kavanaugh as a “brilliant jurist”.

Brett Kavanaugh, a District of Columbia appeals court judge, is a former adviser to ex-President George W. Bush.

The decision has far-reaching implications for America on everything from abortion to guns to immigration.

This is President Trump’s second Supreme Court appointment, potentially allowing him to shape the US for a generation.

Donald Trump said: “Judge Kavanaugh has impeccable credentials, unsurpassed qualifications and a proven commitment to equal justice under the law.”

The nominee would replace 81-year-old Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced last month that he will retire soon.

Image source Wikimedia

President Trump Starts Supreme Court Search to Replace Retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy

Brett Kavanaugh, 53, thanked President Trump and said he had “witnessed firsthand your appreciation for the vital role of the American judiciary.”

He has served since 2006 on the influential US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and was formerly a White House aide under President George W. Bush.

Brett Kavanaugh previously worked for Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel who investigated Democratic former president Bill Clinton in the 1990s.

The Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter on contentious laws and disputes between states and the federal government.

The highest court rules on such issues as abortion, the death penalty, voter rights, immigration policy, campaign finance and racial bias in policing.

Each of the nine justices holds a lifetime appointment. As Brett Kavanaugh is relatively young, he could serve for decades to come.

Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment will not change the ideological tilt of a court that already has a 5-4 conservative majority, but he could shift the bench further to the right.

Justice Anthony Kennedy sometimes sided with the court’s liberal members. However, Brett Kavanaugh may not be so accommodating.

Neil Gorsuch, 50, who was appointed by President Trump in 2017, is already one of the court’s most conservative justices.

Brett Kavanaugh must be confirmed by the Senate, which the Republicans narrowly controls 51-49.

A nominee needs a simple majority of 51 votes to be confirmed. With Senator John McCain battling cancer, Republicans can currently only muster 50 votes.

Before a full vote in the chamber, the prospective justice will be grilled by the Senate Judiciary Committee in hearings that can go on for days.

The White House and Republicans want the nomination confirmed by November’s mid-term elections.

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More than 100 people are believed to be dead after record rainfall caused flooding and landslides in western Japan, a government spokesman says.

Dozens more are reported to be missing and electricity supplies have been hit.

Since July 5, parts of western Japan have received three times the usual rainfall for the whole of July. Two million people have been ordered to evacuate as rivers burst their banks.

On July 9, rescuers restarted their search through the mud for any survivors or the bodies of those killed.

An official in Okayama prefecture told AFP that water levels were gradually receding and that emergency teams may be able to access the worst-hit areas on foot.

Image source The Japan Times

Vietnam Floods Kill at Least 37, Thousands Evacuated

North Korea Floods Kill at Least 133 as Thousands Are Displaced

The heavy rains began with a typhoon last week that was followed by days of record-breaking torrential rain.

In the town of Motoyama, on Shikoku island, 23in of rain fell between July 6 and July 7.

Many buildings have collapsed and vast areas have been covered in debris and thick mud.

Kumano is in the Hiroshima prefecture where most of the deaths have occurred.

Meanwhile, Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe has canceled a trip to Belgium, France, Saudi Arabia and Egypt following the floods.

On July 8, Shinzo Abe said that rescuers were “working against time” and increased the number of personnel deployed to help with the response to more than 70,000.

He told reporters: “There are still many people missing and others in need of help.”

Flood warnings are still in effect for some of the worst hit areas, including in Okayama prefecture.

However, more settled weather is expected over the next few days which is likely to help with the rescue effort.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador has announced that “profound change” is coming for Mexico after claiming victory in the country’s presidential election.

The left-wing candidate, known by his initials Amlo, is projected to win about 53%. His rivals have conceded in a crushing defeat for the main parties.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s key pledge has been to tackle the “evil” of corruption.

The ex-Mexico City mayor has also been highly critical of President Donald Trump and ties with the US will now be closely watched.

Relations with the US have been hugely strained, with President Trump strongly criticizing Mexico over trade and migration. President Trump has sent a tweet of congratulations.

The 64-year-old promised to respect civil liberties and said he was “not looking to construct a dictatorship, either open or hidden”.

Some opponents have expressed fears that his leftist and populist policies could damage the already sluggish economy and turn Mexico into “another Venezuela”. Mexico is suffering a deep economic crisis and rampant inflation.

Image source Wikimedia

Mexico elections 2012: Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will mount legal challenge to the result

Hailing a “historic night”, López Obrador called on all Mexicans to reconcile and repeated his campaign pledge to review energy contracts for signs of corruption.

He said: “Corruption is… the result of a decadent political regime. We are absolutely convinced that this evil is the main cause of social and economic inequality, and also that corruption is to blame for the violence in our country.”

López Obrador has insisted that no-one involved in corruption will be spared, not even those he calls “brothers-in-arms”.

On combating Mexico’s record levels of violence, much of it related to drug cartels, he said he would have daily meetings with his security cabinet, which under him, he said, would be under a “unified command”.

The July 1 election followed one of Mexico’s deadliest campaigns in decades with more than 130 political candidates and party workers killed.

During the campaign Andreas Manuel López Obrador had often used confrontational language when referring to President Trump, but struck a more conciliatory note in his victory speech, saying he would seek “friendly relations”.

López Obrador also tried to reassure the business sector, saying there would be no nationalization and that he would respect private business. He also said his government would be fiscally disciplined and taxes would not be raised.

On social policies, López Obrador said he would double pensions for the elderly upon taking office on December 1 as a first step to reducing Mexico’s disparate income levels.

According to the latest figures from the Mexican electoral institute, Andreas Manuel López Obrador has won more than double the votes of his nearest challenger. It is the widest victory since the 1980s.

His rival, Ricardo Anaya, candidate for the conservative National Action Party (PAN), looked set to be runner-up to López Obrador.

Ruling party candidate José Antonio Meade, who lies in third place according to initial results, told supporters that he wished the winner “the greatest success”.

Tens of thousands of protesters have demonstrated across the US over the Trump administration’s hard-line immigration policies.

More than 630 events were planned, with demonstrators calling for migrant families split at the US border to be reunited.

Some 2,000 children remain separated from their parents, despite President Donald Trump bowing to public outrage and curtailing the policy.

Concerns remain that records were not kept linking parents and children.

Major demonstrations took place in Washington DC, New York, and many other cities, using the hashtag #familiesbelongtogether. Protesters held placards calling for no more family separations and for the controversial immigration agency ICE to be abolished.

In New York, protesters chanted: “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here.”

In Chicago, protesters marched to the local offices of federal immigration authorities.

Image source familiesbelongtogether.org

Supreme Court Upholds Trump’s Travel Ban for Muslim Countries

Supreme Court Approves Donald Trump’s Full Travel Ban

US Travel Ban: White House Sets New Criteria for Visa Applicants from Six Muslim Countries

The original Trump administration “zero tolerance” policy required authorities to arrest and detain anyone crossing the Mexico-US border illegally. That meant separating children from their parents and holding them separately.

However, President Trump promised to “keep families together” in migrant detention centers.

But critics say the order did not address the issue of families already separated, leaving uncertainty over the fate of 2,342 children taken away from their parents between May 5 and June 9 alone. Earlier this week, a judge in California ordered the families to be reunited within 30 days.

It also still requires authorities to detain immigrant families, rather than release them with a court date to return.

Protests’ organizers said they wanted to send a message to President Trump, prompted by concerns that he would renege on his executive order.

As well as the reunification of parents and children, organizers called for an end to immigrant detention – even when families are kept together – and also planned to voice opposition to President Trump’s travel ban targeting five majority-Muslim nations, which was upheld by the Supreme Court earlier this week.

Protests were also likely to focus on the shake-up of the Supreme Court after Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement last week, giving President Trump the opportunity to solidify a conservative majority on the Supreme Court.

On June 30, President Trump defended the agency that played a central role in carrying out the separations – the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The president told its employees: “You are doing a fantastic job of keeping us safe by eradicating the worst criminal elements. So brave!”

Protests’ organizers issued instructions for people to dress in white, to represent peace and unity. The main march is taking place in Washington DC, but one of the people behind the movement, Anna Galland, said separate events were planned in 50 states.

Lead organizers of the march include the American Civil Liberties Union, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

A number of celebrities expressed their support, including Julianne Moore, America Ferrara and Natalie Portman, and Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the hit musical Hamilton.

President Donald Trump has announced the search for a replacement for retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy will “begin immediately”.

He said at a rally in North Dakota: “We have to pick one that’s going to be there for 40 years, 45 years.”

The retirement of Justice Kennedy, a conservative who sided with liberals on many votes, gives President Trump the chance to shift the top court’s balance more to the right for decades to come.

The 81-year-old judge will retire on July 31.

Justice Anthony Kennedy made the announcement on June 27, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family after 30 years on the top court. President Trump later praised Justice Kennedy – who held the pivotal vote on many key cases – as “a great justice of the Supreme Court”.

Image source Wikimedia

Supreme Court Upholds Trump’s Travel Ban for Muslim Countries

“Hopefully we are going to pick somebody who will be as outstanding,” the president told reporters at the White House. The judge’s retirement gives President Trump his second Supreme Court pick since he became president, and he has said he will choose from a list of 25 conservative candidates.

The Supreme Court plays a key role in American life and is often the final word on highly contentious laws, disputes between states and the federal government, and final appeals to stay executions.

This week the Supreme Court upheld President Trump’s travel ban which covers people from several Muslim-majority countries, in a 5-4 conservative majority ruling. Earlier this month the court ruled in favor of a baker in Colorado who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.

Speaking at the rally in Fargo, North Dakota on June 27, President Trump told supporters that Anthony Kennedy had chosen to retire under his presidency “because he felt confident in me to make the right choice and carry on his great legacy”.

Donald Trump has promised to draw names from the same list from which he picked Neil Gorsuch in February 2017.

Rather than serving fixed terms, the justices serve for life unless they decide to retire. This makes their appointments particularly significant.

Anthony Kennedy, who is the second-oldest justice on the nine-member US Supreme Court, earned a reputation as a swing vote conservative who supported liberal arguments on key decisions, including the 5-4 rulings that decided same-gender marriage and upheld abortion rights.

The Supreme Court is upholding President Donald Trump’s travel ban which covers people from several Muslim-majority countries.

Lower courts had deemed the ban unconstitutional, but the Supreme Court reversed the decision in a 5-4 conservative majority ruling.

At a White House meeting to discuss President Trump’s proposed border wall he lauded the decision as “a tremendous success”.

The Supreme Court’s reversal is viewed as a victory for the Trump administration.

The ban prohibits most people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen from entering the United States.

President Trump hailed the Supreme Court’s decision saying that it was a “great victory” for the nation and constitution.

At a meeting with lawmakers, the president said: “We have to be tough and we have to be safe and we have to be secure.”

“The ruling shows that all the attacks from the media and the Democrat politicians were wrong, and they turned out to be very wrong,” he added.

President Trump said: “If you look at the European Union, they’re meeting right now to toughen up their immigration policies because they’ve been over-run, they’ve been over-run.

“And frankly, a lot of those countries are not the same places anymore.”

Image source Wikimedia

Supreme Court Approves Donald Trump’s Full Travel Ban

US Travel Ban: White House Sets New Criteria for Visa Applicants from Six Muslim Countries

The travel ban, which the Supreme Court allowed to take effect in December 2017, has been widely criticized by refugee and human rights groups.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion, which said the travel ban was “squarely within the scope of Presidential authority”.

He also rejected arguments that the ban discriminated against Muslims.

He wrote: “The Proclamation is expressly premised on legitimate purposes: preventing entry of nationals who cannot be adequately vetted and inducing other nations to improve their practices.

“The text says nothing about religion.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined Justice Sonia Sotomayor in the dissenting opinion, which argues the court failed to uphold the religious liberty guaranteed by the first amendment of the US constitution.

Justice Sonya Sotomayor wrote: “It leaves undisturbed a policy first advertised openly and unequivocally as a ‘total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States’ because the policy now masquerades behind a facade of national-security concerns.”

The dissent also states that “a reasonable observer would conclude that [the ban] was motivated by anti-Muslim animus”.

The ban prevents most immigrants, refugees and visa holders from five Muslim-majority countries – Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen – as well as North Korea and Venezuela from entering the US.

However, the restrictions on North Korea and Venezuela were not part of the legal challenge.

Two votes are being held in Turkey on June 24 – one to choose the country’s next president, and another to pick members of parliament.

Turkish voters will decide whether to grant President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a second five-year term, in the most fiercely fought elections in country in years.

Polls opened at 08:00AM local time in presidential and parliamentary votes.

If Recep Tayyip Erdogan wins, he will adopt major new powers that critics say will weaken democratic rule.

However, President Erdogan faces a major challenge from center-left candidate Muharrem Ince of the Republican People’s Party (CHP).

Turkey remains under a state of emergency imposed in the aftermath of a failed coup in July 2016.

These elections were originally scheduled for November 2019, but were brought forward by President Erdogan.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his main rival Muharrem Ince both held huge rallies on June 23, their final day of campaigning – and each branded the other unfit to run Turkey.

Image source Wikimedia

Turkey Coup Trial: 104 Army Plotters Sentenced to Life in Prison

Turkey Suspected Coup Plotters to Wear Brown Uniforms, Says President Erdogan

Muharrem Ince, whose fiery campaigning has revitalized Turkey’s demoralized opposition, promised to push back what he characterized as a slide into authoritarian rule under Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

He told at least a million people gathered in Istanbul: “If Erdogan wins, your phones will continue to be listened to… Fear will continue to reign. If Ince wins, the courts will be independent.”

Muharrem Ince also said that if elected, he would lift Turkey’s state of emergency within 48 hours. Emergency rule allows the government to bypass parliament.

At his own rally, Recep Tayyip Erdogan – who was prime minister for 11 years before becoming president in 2014 – used a violent metaphor to summarize his hoped-for result, asking supporters: “Are we going to give them an Ottoman slap [a technique for knocking someone out] tomorrow?”

The incumbent president accused his rival – a former teacher and lawmaker of 16 years – of lacking the skills to lead.

“It’s one thing to be a physics teacher, it’s another thing to run a country,” President Erdogan said.

“Being president needs experience.”

President Erdogan told supporters he planned to push through more major infrastructure projects to boost the economy.

Around 60 million Turks are eligible to take part in today’s vote.

Six candidates are vying for the presidency, and if one of them wins more than 50% of the vote they will be elected outright.

If nobody hits that threshold, the top two will face off in a second-round vote on July 8.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be hoping to win decisively, as a run-off vote could end in defeat or narrow his margin of victory.

In the parliamentary election, President Erdogan’s AK Party (AKP) will face a tough battle to keep its majority in the 600-seat assembly.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is visiting China for two days, just a week after meeting President Donald Trump.

Kim Jong-un will most probably discuss sanctions and the commitment he made at the summit, in general terms, to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.

China, North Korea’s only economic ally, has already suggested sanctions against North Korea could be eased.

Meanwhile, South Korea and the US have confirmed they have suspended planning for their next joint military drills.

That follows a pledge made by President Trump at the Singapore summit.

Image source Wikimedia

Trump-Kim Summit: Donald Trump Praises Historic Talks With North Korean Leader

Trump-Kim Summit To Take Place at Capella Hotel on Singapore’s Sentosa Island

The visit to China is Kim Jong-un’s third since March, when his first trip abroad since taking office was to meet President Xi Jinping.

Kim Jong-un’s latest visit was, unusually, reported by Chinese state media. However, it gave no details on the agenda.

On June 12, President Trump and Kim Jong-un signed what the US president called a “comprehensive” agreement.

North Korea agreed to denuclearization – something it had also committed to in talks with the South – while President Trump said the US would end its joint military exercises with South Korea.

Ending the war games had been a long-standing demand by both North Korea and China.

However, both South Korea and Japan – the US’s other main ally in Asia – said the joint drills were very important.

President Trump’s announcement appeared to catch South Korea off guard and there was confusion how it would be implemented.

There was also confusion over President Trump calling the drills “provocative”, a term hitherto used by North Korea to describe them. The US had always insisted they are purely defensive in nature.

There are about 29,000 US soldiers based in the South and each year the US and South Korea regularly conduct large scale military drills.

The next military drill was scheduled for August with some 17,500 US military personnel due to take part.

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Macedonia and Greece have signed an agreement settling a 27-year-long dispute over Macedonia’s name.

Under the agreement, the country known at the UN as Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) will become North Macedonia.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said it was “a brave, historic and necessary step for our peoples”.

Heated rows over Macedonia’s name have been going on since the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, of which it was a part, and have held up Macedonia’s entry to NATO and the EU.

Greece has long argued that by using the name Macedonia, its neighbor was implying it had a claim on the northern Greek province also called Macedonia.

The deal has been announced on June 12 and has pressed ahead despite protests.

Image source Wikimedia

Macedonia to Become Republic of North Macedonia after Reaching Name Deal with Greece

Greece: Huge Athens Rally over Macedonia Name Dispute

Greek PM Alexis Tsipras and his Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev watched as their foreign ministers signed the deal on Lake Prespa on Greece’s northern border on June 17.

The agreement still needs to be approved by both parliaments and by a referendum in Macedonia.

Nationalists on both sides say it erodes their identity.

On June 16, PM Tsipras survived a no-confidence vote over the deal amid accusations he made too many concessions.

Under the deal, Macedonia would be named Severna Makedonija, or Republic of North Macedonia.

Its language would be Macedonian and its people known as Macedonians (citizens of the Republic of North Macedonia).

As part of the agreement, Greece would lift its objections to the renamed nation joining the EU and NATO.

There is still some way to go before the name change becomes official.

The Macedonian parliament first needs to back the deal. That would be followed by a referendum in September or October.

If Macedonian voters support it, the government would have to change the constitution, which is a key Greek demand.

Things have been complicated further as Macedonia’s President Gjorge Ivanov is refusing to sign the agreement.

President Ivanov has the power to veto the deal – but not indefinitely.

If the president refuses to sign the agreement, it will be sent back to parliament for a second vote. If it passes again, the president would then be obliged to approve the legislation.

The agreement will finally have to be ratified by the Greek parliament, a process which may also not be straightforward.

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King Maha Vajiralongkorn of Thailand has been granted full, personal ownership of royal assets thought to be worth at least $30 billion.

Following a change in the law last year, the Crown Property Bureau, which controlled the royal fortune on behalf of the monarchy, transferred ownership of the assets.

It means taxes are liable on royal assets for the first time.

The 65-year-old king succeeded his much-revered father King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who was the world’s longest-reigning monarch when he died in October 2016.

He became king in December 2016.

Thailand has strict lese majeste laws, which ban criticism of the monarchy. The laws have also shielded the royal family from public view and scrutiny.

Image source Wikimedia

King Maha Vajiralongkorn: Crown Prince Proclaimed Thailand’s New King

In a statement, the Crown Property Bureau (CPB) said it was required “to return whatever asset of the Crown property previously under its charge to His Majesty so that His Majesty may take decisions on all matters pertaining to their charge and management at his discretion”.

The assets include shares in various companies.

The Crown Property Bureau’s statement went on to say: “His Majesty made the decision to make the ‘Crown Property Assets’ be subject to the same duties and taxation as would assets belonging to any other citizen.”

The CPB also pledged to ensure the management of assets would be “transparent and open to scrutiny”.

It has been managing royal assets since it was established in 1938 and, until now, has been run by at least four royally-appointed directors and included the minister of finance.

The extent of the CPB’s wealth is not known. In 2012, Forbes magazine estimated the CPB’s value in property and other investments came to more than $30 billion.

Stock exchange data in March showed King Vajiralongkorn acquired a nearly $150 million stake in Siam Cement Group Pcl and, in October, shares worth over $500 million in Siam Commercial Bank were transferred to the king, Reuters reports.

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Greece and Macedonia have reached a deal regarding the latter’s name, which called itself Macedonia at the break-up of the former Yugoslavia.

After 27 years of talks – and many protests, Greece and its northern neighbor have settled on the name Republic of North Macedonia, or Severna Makedonija in Macedonian.

Greece had objected to the name Macedonia, fearing territorial claims on its eponymous northern region.

It had vetoed Macedonia’s bid to join NATO and the European Union.

The name Republic of North Macedonia will now need to be approved by the Macedonian people and Greek parliament.

Under the deal, the country known at the UN as Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) will be named Severna Makedonija, or Republic of North Macedonia.

Its language will be Macedonian and its people known as Macedonians (citizens of the Republic of North Macedonia).

Image source Wikimedia

Greece: Huge Athens Rally over Macedonia Name Dispute

The two countries agreed that the new name would be used both internationally and bilaterally, so that even the 140 or more countries that recognize the name Macedonia will also have to adopt North Macedonia.

They also agreed that the English name could be used as well as the Slavic term.

The two sides had earlier dropped a number of alternatives, including Gorna Makedonija (Upper Macedonia), Nova Makedonija (New Macedonia) and Ilinden Macedonia.

The name Macedonia already belongs to a northern region of Greece that includes the country’s second city Thessaloniki. By adopting the same identity in 1991, the new Slavic nation infuriated many Greeks, who suspected their northern neighbor of territorial ambitions.

The new Macedonians did not help matters when they named the main airport in the capital, Skopje, after Ancient Greek hero Alexander the Great, as well as a key motorway running from the Serbian to the Greek border.

During the 4th Century BC, the Macedonia of Alexander and his father Philip II before him ruled all of Greece and much beyond it.

When the Ottomans were driven out of the broad region known as Macedonia during the Balkan Wars of 1912-13, it was split up, mainly between Greece and Serbia, but a small part went to Bulgaria.

In World War Two, Greek and Yugoslav Macedonia were occupied by Bulgaria, an ally of Nazi Germany and Italy. Communists from both Yugoslavia and Bulgaria played a part in the Greek civil war that followed, so memories are still raw.

When Yugoslavia broke up, Greece would only accept the new country as “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)” at the UN, even though much of the world came to recognize it as Macedonia.

President Donald Trump has praised his historic talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that ended in a joint agreement were “tremendous”.

The agreement includes a pledge from Kim Jong-un to rid the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons.

However, in an extraordinary media conference later, President Trump announced details not in the paper.

The American president said he would halt US military exercises in South Korea, something widely seen as a concession.

The Singapore meeting was the first time a sitting US president has met North Korea’s leader, and caps a remarkable turnaround for the two.

For both leaders the meeting brought much to gain as well as considerable risk.

The meeting is seen by North Korea as a way of bringing legitimacy to a nation long regarded as a pariah.

The summit centered on nuclear disarmament and reducing tensions.

The agreement said the US and North Korea would co-operate towards “new relations”, while the US would provide “security guarantees” to North Korea.

On nuclear weapons, Kim Jong-un “reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula”.

Observers say the document lacks substance, in particular on how denuclearization would be achieved.

Photo AP

Trump-Kim Summit To Take Place at Capella Hotel on Singapore’s Sentosa Island

Speaking to reporters, President Donald Trump revealed:

  • The US would suspend “provocative” drills it holds with South Korea. He wanted to see US troops withdraw from South Korea. A spokesperson for the US forces said they had yet to receive any new guidance
  • On denuclearization, Kim Jong-un had agreed to it being “verified”, a key US demand ahead of the meeting
  • they had also agreed to destroy a “major missile engine testing site”
  • however, sanctions would remain in place for now and argued “we haven’t given up anything”.

Several reporters asked whether President Trump had raised the issue of human rights with Kim Jong-un, who runs a totalitarian regime with extreme censorship and forced-labor camps.

President Trump said he had, and did not retract his description of Kim Jong-un as “talented”.

He said: “Well, he is very talented.

“Anybody that takes over a situation like he did at 26 years of age and is able to run it and run it tough. I don’t say he was nice.”

In a post-summit interview with ABC News, President Trump said he was confident that the agreement meant full denuclearization.

“Yeah, he’s de-nuking, I mean he’s de-nuking the whole place. It’s going to start very quickly. I think he’s going to start now,” he said.

“I think he trusts me and I trust him,” the president added.

Sitting alongside each other, ahead of a one-on-one meeting, President Trump and Kim Jong-un appeared relaxed against the odds.

Kim Jong-un said: “It was not easy to get here.

“There were obstacles but we overcame them to be here.”

The two leaders, accompanied only by interpreters, spoke for a little under 40 minutes. They were then joined by small delegations of advisers for a working lunch.

Over lunch Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un shared a mix of Western and Korean dishes, including stuffed cucumbers and Daegu jorim, a soy-braised fish dish.

President Donald Trump, who is attending the G7 summit in Canada, says Russia should be part of the group.

Russia was expelled in 2014 following its annexation of Crimea, but President Trump said he wanted the country readmitted.

Fellow members of what was then the G8 suspended Russia after it took control of Crimea, saying it would remain until Russia “changes course”.

The build-up to the meeting has seen major disagreements between President Trump and other nations over his imposition of trade tariffs.

There are also likely to be disagreements with the US president over Iran and climate change.

The G7 summit, which groups the US, the UK, Canada, France, Italy, Japan and Germany, is being held in the town of La Malbaie in Quebec.

Image NBC News

G7: Russia faces further economic sanctions over Ukraine crisis

The leaders of the nations, which represent more than 60% of global net worth, meet annually. Economics tops the agenda, although the meetings now always branch off to cover major global issues.

President Trump said he regretted the meeting had shrunk in size, putting him at odds with most other G7 members on yet another issue.

He said: “You know, whether you like it or – and it may not be politically correct – but we have a world to run and in the G7, which used to be the G8, they threw Russia out. They should let Russia come back in.”

President Trump found support in the shape of the newly installed Italian PM Giuseppe Conte, who tweeted that it was “in the interests of everyone” for Russia to be readmitted.

Canada, France and the UK though immediately signaled they remain opposed to Russian re-entry. A Kremlin spokesperson said they were interested in “other formats”, apart from the G7.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is currently in Beijing, where he was presented with a friendship medal by Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

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Several American officials have been removed from China over fears they have contracted the same mysterious illness that affected staff in Cuba.

The US employees, who were working in the southern city of Guangzhou, had reported hearing odd noises.

In 2017, twenty four US staff working at the Cuba embassy suffered brain injuries after reporting “auditory sensations”.

The incidents have raised concerns that a government or agency may be targeting the US with a new type of sonic weapon.

The cases come at a time when China-US relations have been strained amid fears of a trade war.

This month, the State Department issued a health warning to its staff saying an employee in China had reported “subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure”.

Image source Pixabay

Cuba Sonic Attack: US Withdraws Embassy Staff

Cuba Sonic Attack: State Department Reveals Details of Suspected Acoustic Attack on US Diplomats

Cuba Mystery Illness: Canadian Diplomat Treated for Hearing Loss and Headaches

The State Department said it was taking the reports seriously, but did not yet know the cause, and warned staff to move to a safe place if they encountered any “unusual acute auditory or sensory phenomena accompanied by unusual sounds or piercing noises”.

One US official was diagnosed with mild brain trauma, the same injury that affected the Cuban embassy staff.

The State Department has warned that US diplomats should alert their mission’s medical staff “if they note new onset of symptoms that may have begun in association with experiencing unidentified auditory sensations”.

It said it had sent a team to Guangzhou and set up a task force to oversee the response to the mystery attacks in China and Cuba.

Cuba has denied targeting embassy staff, and the US has not blamed the country’s government for the suspected attacks.

According to specialists, symptoms of a sonic attack may include dizziness, headaches, vomiting, bowel spasms, vertigo, permanent hearing loss and even brain damage.

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President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un meeting will take place at the five-star Capella Hotel on the Singaporean island of Sentosa, the White House has confirmed.

The June 12 summit was called off two weeks ago by President Trump but has since been salvaged after a flurry of contacts between the two sides.

On June 5, President Trump said that plans were “moving along very nicely”.

The US wants Kim Jong-un to commit to giving up his nuclear weapons.

However, it is unclear exactly what is on the table for the discussions in Singapore. President Trump has suggested the first meeting will kick off a longer process of negotiations, calling it a “get-to-know-you situation”.

He told reporters: “A lot of relationships being built, a lot of negotiations going on before the trip.

“It’s very important – it’ll be a very important couple of days.”

The summit would represent the first ever meeting between a US sitting president and a North Korean leader.

Photo AP

Trump-Kim Summit Is Back On

North Korea: Former Spy Chief Kim Yong-chol Travels to US for Talks

President Donald Trump Pulls Out of Upcoming North Korea Summit

North Korea Destroyed Punggye-ri Nuclear Tunnels

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed on Twitter that the summit would take place at the Capella Hotel.

However, it appears that the two leaders will stay elsewhere. President Trump will likely be at the Shangri-La Hotel, where US presidents have stayed before, while Kim Jong-un will probably stay at the St Regis Singapore, the Straits Times newspaper reports. The two hotels are on the main island, near the famous Orchard Road shopping strip.

Sentosa is one of 63 islands that make up Singapore.

The 500-hectare island, only a short distance from the main island, is home to luxury resorts, private marinas and plush golf clubs.

The island also has a dark history of piracy, bloodshed and war.

Singapore was established as a British trading post in the 19th Century. Its prime location on the major sea route between India and China made it an ideal choice.

Even before British rule, Singapore was a flourishing trade centre, frequented by merchants and traders, as well as pirates.

Sentosa was known at that time as Pulau Blakang Mati, which directly translates as the “island behind death” – a reference to its violent piracy reputation.

The island’s population was mostly Malay, Chinese and the Bugis – seafarers originally from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

Thousands of demonstrators have protested in Jordan for a third consecutive night against tax rises and austerity measures.

There are the biggest demonstrations in years.

Riot police fired tear gas and blocked roads in the capital Amman to stop protesters getting close to the cabinet office.

The protesters say a new tax bill backed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will hurt the poor and middle class.

King Abdullah of Jordan has called for compromise from all sides.

Protesters chanted anti-government slogans and called for King Abdullah to dismiss PM Hani Mulki have been holding vigils near the cabinet office.

Image source Wikimediameasures

Iran Protests: Revolutionary Guards Threaten Crackdown

There have also been some protests in provincial towns, where police have reportedly used tear gas. In the southern town of Maan protesters burned tires on highways and there were scuffles with police, Reuters reported.

Jordanians have seen prices rise with salaries failing to keep up.

On June 1, King Abdullah intervened to freeze an increase in fuel prices.

However, the protesters are angriest about the proposed tax bill, which they fear will further worsen living standards.

PM Hani Mulki has refused to scrap the IMF-backed tax bill, saying it was up to parliament to decide whether to pass it or not.

The government says it needs the money to fund public services and says the new tax bill will see higher earners pay more.

Earlier this year sales tax was increased and bread subsidies were scrapped as part of a plan to cut Jordan’s debt.

Hani Mulki said he hoped the reforms needed to get Jordan’s economy “back on track” would be complete by mid-2019.

King Abdullah has said that conflict in neighboring Syria and Iraq has worsened Jordan’s financial situation.

President Donald Trump has announced his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12 is back on, a week after it was scrapped.

The president made the announcement after talks with senior North Korean envoy Kim Yong-chol at the White House.

General Kim Yong-chol hand-delivered a letter from Kim Jong-un to President Trump.

President Trump at first said the letter was “very interesting” but later said he had not yet opened it.

He also said the issue of formally ending the Korean War would be on the table in Singapore.

The 1950-1953 war only ended with a truce, not a final peace treaty.

Photo AP

North Korea: Former Spy Chief Kim Yong-chol Travels to US for Talks

President Donald Trump Pulls Out of Upcoming North Korea Summit

North Korea Destroyed Punggye-ri Nuclear Tunnels

President Trump told reporters on the White House lawn: “We’ll be meeting on June 12th in Singapore. It went very well.”

“We’ve got to know their people very well,” he added.

President Trump cautioned that the summit might not achieve a final deal on North Korea’s controversial nuclear program.

“I never said it goes in one meeting. I think it’s going to be a process, but the relationships are building and that’s very positive,” President Trump said.

The historic meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un would be the first between sitting US and North Korean leaders. President Trump has offered to help rebuild North Korea’s economy if it scraps its nuclear weapons. Kim Jong-un says he is committed to “denuclearization” in some form but his precise demands are unclear.

The EU is proposing a ban on drinking straws and other single-use plastics to help protect marine life.

The proposal is aimed at outlawing many commonplace plastic items including cotton buds, balloon sticks, cutlery, straws and drink stirrers.

The European Union also wants almost all plastic bottles to be collected for recycling by 2025.

The EU’s proposals are targeting disposable food containers and dining ware, from plastic plates and cups, to packaging for food products such as fast-food.

The plan will need to be approved by the 28 member states and the European Parliament before it can be passed.

The European Union estimates that the ban will help: to avoid 3.4 million tons of carbon emissions; to prevent damage to the environment that would cost the equivalent of €22 billion by 2030 and to save consumers €6.5 billion.

Image source PxHere

EU bans refillable bottles and dipping bowls of olive oil at restaurant tables

EU First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “Plastic waste is undeniably a big issue and Europeans need to act together to tackle this problem.

“Today’s proposals will reduce single-use plastics on our supermarket shelves through a range of measures.

“We will ban some of these items and substitute them with cleaner alternatives, so people can still use their favorite products.”

The plan does not set a deadline for a total ban on single-use plastics.

If it is approved, EU member states will need to make an active effort to reduce the number of single-use plastic food containers and cups available for sale in supermarkets.

President Donald Trump has announced he is canceling a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, saying the world had “lost a great opportunity for lasting peace”.

The American leader said his decision was because of “tremendous anger and open hostility” in a recent North Korean statement.

The summit aimed at ridding the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons and would have been the first time a sitting US president met a North Korean leader.

However, both sides have recently cast doubt on whether the talks would happen.

President Trump’s announcement came just hours after North Korea said it had dismantled tunnels at its only nuclear test site in a move witnessed by foreign reporters.

He said he had been looking forward to the now-canceled summit in Singapore on June 12.

Photo AP

North Korea Destroyed Punggye-ri Nuclear Tunnels

President Trump said: “I was very much looking forward to being there with you. Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have the long-planned meeting.”

“You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used,” he added.

The president called the meeting a “missed opportunity”, saying “someday, I look very much forward to meeting you”.

President Trump was apparently responding to statements from North Korea attacking his administration and casting doubt over the meeting.

Earlier today, North Korean official Choe Son-hui dismissed remarks by US Vice-President Mike Pence – who had said North Korea “may end like Libya” – as “stupid”.

Choe Son-hui, who has been involved in several diplomatic interactions with the US over the past decade, said North Korea would not “beg” for dialogue and warned of a “nuclear showdown” if diplomacy failed.

A White House official quoted by Reuters described the comments about Mike Pence as the “last straw”. They stressed, however, there was a “backdoor that’s open still”.

References to Libya have angered North Korea. There, former leader Colonel Gaddafi gave up his nuclear program only for him to be killed by Western-backed rebels a few years later.

Nicolas Maduro has won another six-year term as Venezuela’s president, in a vote marred by an opposition boycott and claims of vote-rigging.

Just 46% of the electorate turned out to vote amid food shortages stemming from a severe economic crisis.

The main opposition candidate, Henri Falcón, rejected the result soon after the polls closed.

He said: “We do not recognize this electoral process as valid… we have to have new elections in Venezuela.”

With more than 90% of the votes counted, Nicolas Maduro, 55, had 67.7% – 5.8 million votes – National Electoral Council chief Tibisay Lucena announced. Henri Falcón won 21.2% – 1.8 million votes – she said.

Nicolas Maduro told cheering supporters outside his presidential palace in Caracas, as fireworks went off and confetti was fired in the air: “They underestimated me.”

Henri Falcón has alleged that the vote was rigged in Nicolas Maduro’s favor, by abuse of the scanning of state-issued benefits cards used for accessing food.

Image source Wikimedia

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According to government officials, the polls were “free and fair” but most of the opposition joined a boycott against the poll.

The Trump administration said it would not recognize the result. Tweeting ahead of the vote, the US mission to the UN called the process an “insult to democracy”.

Venezuela’s presidential elections were supposed to be held in December 2018, but the National Constituent Assembly, made up exclusively of Nicolas Maduro’s supporters, brought them forward.

The opposition Democratic Unity coalition said the elections were moved to take advantage of divisions within the coalition. Its two biggest candidates were also barred from running, and others have fled the country.

There were a handful of minor candidates but only Henri Falcón, a governor under the late President Hugo Chávez, was seen as a viable alternative to Nicolas Maduro. Henri Falcon came from the same socialist party as President Maduro, but left in 2010 to join the opposition.

Henri Falcón, who ran despite the boycott, has said he believes the majority of Venezuelans want to remove Nicolas Maduro from office.

The rest of the opposition, however, has frowned on his breaking ranks – with some even branding him a traitor.