Home Authors Posts by Diane A. Wade

Diane A. Wade

7402 POSTS 0 COMMENTS
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.


In a rare healthcare speech, President Donald Trump has issued a challenge to Republican senators to rally behind their bill, on the eve of a crucial vote.

“Now is the time for action,” he said.

A procedural vote is due on July 25 as Republicans push forward in their attempt to repeal ObamaCare, President Barack Obama’s signature law.

However, among Republicans there is confusion about the bill and it is unclear whether the healthcare will pass.

Senator Ron Johnson told reporters: “I don’t have a clue what we’re going to be voting on.”

Senators will vote on a procedural motion to start debate on a health care bill.

Republicans have a majority in the Senate but there are deep divisions in their party on the issue.

Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor: “Many of us have waited literally years for this moment to arrive and, at long last, it finally has.”

Donald Trump: “Let ObamaCare Die on Its Own”

ObamaCare Replacement: Republican Efforts to Find Alternative Fail

However, several senators have expressed unhappiness over the process, because it is not clear what they will vote on if the procedure vote passes.

There appear to be two choices – either a repeal-and-replace bill that has already struggled to win support across the party, or a bill that enacts repeal with a two-year delay, in the hope of finding agreement before that time elapses.


Image source Flickr

Senator John McCain, recently diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor, will return to Congress to cast his vote.

President Trump increased the pressure on his party by warning them they had a duty to adhere to seven years of promises.

In a White House speech laced with frustration, he said: “To every member of the Senate I say this: The American people have waited long enough.

“There’s been enough talk, and no action. Now is the time for action.”

ObamaCare Repeal Bill: Some 22 Million Americans Could Lose Health Insurance over Next Decade

The president lambasted his predecessor’s overhaul of healthcare and stood alongside people he said were “victims” of the 2010 law.

ObamaCare extended healthcare insurance to about 20 million people but Republicans hate the way it introduced government-run marketplaces, where premiums have risen sharply for some people.

The GOP’s proposed alternative includes steep cuts to Medicaid, a healthcare program for the poor and disabled.

It removes ObamaCare’s individual mandate requiring all Americans to have health insurance or pay a tax penalty.

The non-partisan Congressional Budgetary Office (CBO) found the bill would strip 22 million Americans of health insurance over the next decade.

However, if the bill gets to the floor of the Senate, amendments could be added to change the various provisions.

A Republican politician has blamed “female senators” for the spluttering efforts by his party to pass a healthcare bill.

Blake Farenthold, a congressman from Texas, told a local radio station if a man from his state was responsible, he would challenge him to a duel.

“Some of the people that are opposed to this, they’re some female senators from the North East.”

If it was “a guy from south Texas” who was generating so much discord in the party, he said, he would ask them to settle their differences in a gun fight.

Susan Collins of Maine was one of three female Republicans who said they could not back the Senate’s last healthcare plan, a repeal with two-year delay, which hit the buffers last week.

She has been strongly opposed to the Republican bill from the start over the cuts to Medicaid.

Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Shelly Moore Capito of West Virginia also came out against the bill, expressing concerns over plans to weaken protections for people with pre-existing conditions and affordability.

There was an outcry when Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell drafted the first healthcare bill in private among a group of 13 that did not include any women.

0

Seventeen employees of Turkish opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet are about to go on trial on charges of aiding a terrorist organization.

If found guilty, their sentence could be up to 43 years in jail.

A dozen of Cumhuriyet‘s journalists and managers are behind bars in pre-trial detention. Ten of them have been imprisoned for almost nine months.

On July 15, Turkey marked the first anniversary of a failed coup. There were massive commemorations held by thousands of jubilant people, hailing the day as the triumph of democracy.

However, critics argue that day – and the introduction of the state of emergency soon after – were actually the beginning of a massive crackdown, with more than 50,000 people arrested in the last year.

Image source Wikimedia

Press freedom groups say Turkish media has been particularly hard hit during this period, as about 150 media outlets have been shut down.

Turkey is currently listed as the country with the biggest number of imprisoned journalists. Journalism organizations say more than 150 journalists are behind bars, most of them accused of terror charges.

However, the government contradicts that figure.

Cumhuriyet Trial: Can Dundar and Erdem Gul Jailed for Revealing State Secrets

Cumhuriyet Scandal: Can Dundar and Erdem Gul Trial Adjourned until April 1

Can Dundar, the previous editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet newspaper, is the number one suspect in the case starting on July 24.

He was give a three-month jail term last year for espionage in another case but was released on bail. He now lives in exile in Germany.

He too gives the figure of imprisoned journalists as more than 150.

In the indictment against Cumhuriyet, there are accusations such as “changing the paper’s editorial policy”, preparing “violent and divisive news” and “interviewing leaders of terrorist organizations”.

“This is an oddity, it is absurd,” says defense lawyer Adil Demirci.

“This is obviously a political case. They are targeting Cumhuriyet because it is an opposition paper.”

The head of media organization PEN Turkey, Zeynep Oral, believes the state of press freedom in the country is the worst it has been for decades.

“You never know what will happen tomorrow,” she says.

“Anybody can put anybody into jail these days. But even if a single journalist is behind bars for no reason, no-one will ever be free in this country.”

Journalists and press freedom activists all over the world will be watching the Cumhuriyet trial very closely. The hearings are expected to last all week.

Amid reports President Donald Trump is considering presidential pardons for family members, aides and even himself, he has insisted he has the “complete power” to pardon people.

Democratic Party spokesman Mark Warner has called the reports “extremely disturbing”.

The US authorities are probing possible collusion between the Trump team and Russia. Intelligence agencies think Russia tried to help Donald Trump to power.

Moscow denies this, and President Trump says there was no collusion.

The Washington Post reported on July 20 that Donald Trump and his team were looking at ways to pardon people close to him.

Presidents can pardon people before guilt is established or even before the person is charged with a crime.

Describing the reports as disturbing, Senator Mark Warner, who sits on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said “pardoning any individuals who may have been involved would be crossing a fundamental line”.

Image source Wikipedia

On July 22, President Trump tweeted: “While all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us. FAKE NEWS.”

Donald Trump also attacked “illegal leaks” following reports his attorney general discussed campaign-related matters with a Russian envoy.

Jeff Sessions Met Russian Ambassador During Donald Trump’s Campaign

The Washington Post gave an account of meetings Attorney General Jeff Sessions held with the Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak. The newspaper quoted current and former US officials who cited intelligence intercepts of Sergey Kislyak’s version of the encounter to his superiors.

One of those quoted said Ambassador Kislyak spoke to Jeff Sessions about key campaign issues, including Donald Trump’s positions on policies significant to Russia.

During his confirmation hearing earlier this year, Jeff Sessions said he had no contact with Russians during the election campaign. When it later emerged he had, he said the campaign was not discussed at the meetings.

An official confirmed to Reuters the detail of the intercepts, but there has been no independent corroboration.

The officials spoken to by the Post said that Sergey Kislyak could have exaggerated the account, and cited a Justice Department spokesperson who repeated that Jeff Sessions did not discuss interference in the election.

Jeff Sessions Testimony: Attorney General Denies Having Undisclosed Meetings with Russian Officials

However, the Post‘s story was the focus of one of many tweets President Trump fired off on July 22.

“A new INTELLIGENCE LEAK from the Amazon Washington Post, this time against A.G. Jeff Sessions. These illegal leaks, like Comey’s, must stop!” the president said.

The Washington Post is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who has been an occasional sparring partner for Donald Trump. “Comey” refers to James Comey, the former FBI director President Trump fired.

Earlier this week, President Trump told the New York Times he regretted hiring Jeff Sessions because he had stepped away from overseeing an inquiry into alleged Russian meddling in the US election.

Jeff Sessions recused himself in March amid pressure over his meetings with Sergey Kislyak. He says he plans to continue in his role as attorney general.

Several other regular targets for Donald Trump featured in his series of tweets.

The president accused the “failing” New York Times of foiling an attempt to assassinate ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

It is not clear what President Trump was referring to, but on July 22 a US general complained on Fox News that a “good lead” on Anu Nakr al-Baghdadi was leaked to a national newspaper in 2015.

A New York Times report at the time revealed that valuable information had been extracted from a raid, but the paper stressed on July 22 that no-one had taken issue with their reporting until now.

Donald Trump again urged Republicans to “step up to the plate” and repeal and replace President Obama’s healthcare reforms, a key campaign pledge of his that has collapsed in Congress.

Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer wants to minimize talk of divisions within the Trump administration after announcing his resignation.

Sean Spicer is reportedly stepping down because he is unhappy with President Donald Trump’s appointment of a new communications director.

However, he told Fox News he had “no regrets” about his six-month stint.

Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci has been picked for the role that Sean Spicer had partially filled.

The shake-up at the White House comes amid several investigations into alleged Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election and whether Donald Trump’s campaign team colluded with Moscow.

“The president obviously wanted to add to the team, more than anything,” Sean Spicer told interviewer Sean Hannity.

“I just thought it was in the best interest of our communications department, of our press organization, to not have too many cooks in the kitchen.

“Without me in the way, they have a fresh start, so that I’m not lurking over them.”

Sean Spicer, 45, defended President Trump’s agenda, saying it was an honor and a privilege to serve him, and hit out at what he termed “media bias”.

He said: “I was increasingly disappointed about the way the media here do their job – or don’t do their job.”

Sean Spicer also said he had told President Trump he “would stay on for a few weeks to achieve a smooth transition”, and was looking forward to spending more time with his family.

Meanwhile, President Trump wrote on Twitter: “Sean Spicer is a wonderful person who took tremendous abuse from the Fake News Media – but his future is bright!”

White House Leaves Out Some of the Media at Gaggle in Sean Spicer Office

Sean Spicer Confronted in Apple Store

The New York Times reported that Sean Spicer had “vehemently” disagreed with the appointment of Anthony Scaramucci, which he believed to be a “major mistake”.

Sean Spicer’s often chaotic press briefings over the past six months were a cable news hit, but in recent weeks he had withdrawn from appearances in front of the camera.

In an assured debut, Sean Spicer attended Friday afternoon’s news conference to announce that Sarah Huckabee Sanders, formerly his deputy, would step into his shoes.

“I love the president and it’s an honor to be here,” Anthony Scaramucci said, adding: “He is genuinely a wonderful human being.”

Anthony Scaramucci, who has no previous experience in communications roles, paid tribute to Sean Spicer as “a true American patriot” and “incredibly gracious”.

“I hope he goes on to make a tremendous amount of money,” he added.

Anthony Scaramucci also apologized and said he had been “unexperienced” as he explained his previous criticism of Donald Trump.

In an August 2015 interview with Fox Business, Anthony Scaramucci dismissed Donald Trump as a “hack” and “an inherited money dude” with “a big mouth”.

Anthony Scaramucci is currently senior vice-president of the Export-Import Bank, a government agency which guarantees loans for foreign buyers of American exports.

Venezuela’s National Assembly has appointed 33 judges to the Supreme Court, prompting accusations of an attempted power grab.

The assembly, which is controlled by the opposition, says it has the right to name and fire justices under Venezuela’s constitution.

However, the Supreme Court, which is largely made up of pro-government members, has described the move as illegal.

The opposition is stepping up pressure on President Nicolas Maduro to call early elections.

President Maduro has refused and is instead going ahead with plans to form a constituent assembly which would have the power to rewrite the constitution and bypass the National Assembly.

The impasse has left the country in a political crisis and scores of people have died in months of anti-government protests.

Following the National Assembly’s announcement, the government said it would not allow serving judges to be unseated.

Venezuela Opposition Referendum: Woman Shot Dead in Voting Queuing

Venezuela’s Supreme Court Attacked by Helicopter

Venezuela’s Supreme Court has ordered “civil and military authorities” to carry out “coercive actions” in response to the appointments, but it is unclear what that will entail.

Meanwhile, the opposition Democratic Unity coalition (MUD) has called for protest marches on July 22 from seven points in the capital Caracas to the Supreme Court headquarters.

The opposition says the current justices are illegitimate, having been rushed into their positions shortly before the governing party lost its majority in 2015.

Since the opposition took over the National Assembly last year the court has consistently blocked all bills passed by Congress.

The opposition announced last week that it would appoint new judges and that it would also take the first steps to set up a national unity government. Analysts say such proposals raise the possibility of a parallel state structure.

On July 20, millions of Venezuelans joined a general strike called by the opposition.

At least three people were killed in clashes between police and protesters and there were more than 300 arrests.

Protesters barricaded roads in Caracas and other cities with rubbish and furniture.

The opposition said that 85% of the country joined the strike but President Maduro said its effect was minimal and that its leaders would be arrested.

Meanwhile, Colombia, France, Spain, the US and the EU have urged the Venezuelan government to cancel the vote for a new constituent assembly on July 30.

However, President Nicolas Maduro has rejected the calls.

At least two people died after a strong earthquake in the Aegean Sea hit the Greek island of Kos, officials say.

The 6.7-magnitude quake hit 7 miles north-east of Kos, near the Turkish coast, with a depth of 6 miles, the US Geological Survey said.

At least 100 others were also injured at the popular tourist destination. Some buildings were damaged.

In the Turkish city of Bodrum, dozens of people were injured as they tried to flee the quake.

The earthquake struck at 01:31 local time on July 21.

Lesbos 6.3 Earthquake Felt in Athens and Istanbul

The two deceased have not been named but police said that both victims were tourists – a 22-year-old from Sweden and a 39-year-old from Turkey.

They died after they were crushed by debris from either a collapsed wall or an old building, police said.

Dozens more were injured when buildings collapsed, some of them suffering broken bones with a number in serious condition, Kos regional government official Giorgos Halkidios said.

The Greek army is supporting the emergency services with the rescue operation, he added.

Image source Wikimedia

Kos was nearest to the epicenter of the quake and appeared to be the worst hit, with damage caused to a number of older buildings, including cracked walls and smashed windows.

The mayor said the buildings that suffered the most damage were built before “earthquake building codes” were introduced.

“The rest of the island has no problem. It’s only the main town that has a problem,” Mayor Giorgos Kyritsis said.

Three Earthquakes Hit Central Italy In One Hour

The roof of a bar on the island also collapsed, and a ferry was unable to dock due to damage at the harbor, Greek police said.

Tourists later gathered outside terminal buildings at Kos airport having left their hotels and apartments.

In Turkey, pictures shared on social media showed people in the city of Bodrum walking with water lapping their ankles and localized flooding, and about 80 people sought hospital treatment for minor injuries.

Others described waking in the night after being violently shaken in their beds.

Residents fled their homes and tourists ran from holiday apartments with pillows and blankets. Some sustained injuries after jumping from windows in panic, Turkish broadcaster NTV said.

At a hospital in Bodrum, the wounded were being treated in the garden as a precaution after the quake caused slight damage to parts of the hospital ceiling, the Hurriyet Daily News reports.

The earthquake also triggered high waves off Gumbet, a resort town near Bodrum, which flooded roads and left parked cars stranded, Turkish media report. There were no reports of casualties.

Turkey and Greece sit on significant fault lines and are regularly hit by earthquakes.

One of the deadliest in recent years hit the heavily populated northwest of Turkey, in 1999, killing some 17,000 people.

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services John McCain has been diagnosed with brain cancer and is reviewing treatment options, his office said.

According to the veteran Republican’s doctors, the options may include chemotherapy and radiation.

John McCain, 80, is in “good spirits” recovering at home.

The brain tumor was discovered during a surgery to remove a blood clot from above his left eye last week.

A Vietnam veteran, John McCain spent more than five years as a prisoner of war.

On July 14, the six-term senator and 2008 Republican presidential candidate underwent surgery at a clinic in Phoenix, Arizona.

Image source Flickr

Tissue analysis revealed that a primary brain tumor known as glioblastoma was associated with the clot, a statement from the Mayo Clinic said.

“The senator’s doctors say he is recovering from his surgery <amazingly well> and his underlying health is excellent,” the statement added.

“Treatment options may include a combination of chemotherapy and radiation.”

Glioblastoma is a particularly aggressive brain tumor, and increases in frequency with age, affecting more men than women.

John McCain was in “good spirits as he continues to recover at home with his family”, his office said.

The senator’s family reacted with “shock” to the news, his 32-year-old daughter Meghan said.

She tweeted: “It won’t surprise you to learn that in all of this, the one of us who is most confident and calm is my father.

“So he is meeting this challenge as he has every other. Cancer may afflict him in many ways: but it will not make him surrender. Nothing ever has.”

President Trump said John McCain has “always been a fighter” and, in a statement, said: “Get well soon.”

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said John McCain was a “hero to our country”.

Former President Barack Obama said on Twitter: “John McCain is an American hero and one of the bravest fighters I’ve ever known. Cancer doesn’t know what it’s up against. Give it hell, John.”

Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin had another, previously undisclosed conversation at the G20 summit in Hamburg, the White House has confirmed.

The president and his Russian counterpart spoke towards the end of a formal dinner but the White House has not revealed what was discussed.

Donald Trump has condemned media revelations of the talks as “sick”.

The two leaders’ relationship is under scrutiny amid allegations of Russian interference in the US election.

US intelligence agencies believe Russia tried to tip the election in Donald Trump’s favor, something denied by the Kremlin. Donald Trump has rejected allegations of any collusion.

The extra conversation happened during a private meal of heads of state at the G20 summit earlier in the month.

G20 Hamburg: Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin Meet Face to Face for First Time

President Trump left his seat and headed to Vladimir Putin, who had been sitting next to Melania Trump, media said. The president was alone with Vladimir Putin, apart from the attendance of the Russian president’s official interpreter.

Donald Trump had been seated next to Japanese PM Shinzo Abe’s wife, so the US interpreter at the dinner spoke Japanese, not Russian. No media were in attendance.

The length of the talks has been disputed.

Ian Bremmer, president of the US-based Eurasia Group, who first reported them in a newsletter to clients, said: “Donald Trump got up from the table and sat down with Putin for about an hour. It was very animated and very friendly.”

No-one else was nearby, so the topics of discussion were not known, he said.

Image NBC News

Ian Bremmer had not been at the dinner but said details were given to him by unnamed attendees who, he said, were “flummoxed, confused and startled” by the turn of events.

He told Bloomberg he had never before seen “two major countries with a constellation of national interests that are as dissident while the two leaders seem to be doing everything possible to make nice-nice and be close to each other”.

In a statement, a senior White House official said there was no “second meeting”, just a brief conversation after dinner.

The official said: “The insinuation that the White House has tried to <hide> a second meeting is false, malicious and absurd. It is not merely perfectly normal, it is part of a president’s duties, to interact with world leaders.”

National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton said it was not a meeting but a “pull aside”, adding: “A conversation over dessert should not be characterized as a meeting.”

President Trump later said on Twitter: “Fake News story of secret dinner with Putin is <sick>. All G20 leaders, and spouses, were invited by the Chancellor of Germany. Press knew!”

The dinner and its attendees have always been known. Only the Trump-Putin discussion had not been reported before.

At the earlier, formal meeting, their first face-to-face encounter, President Trump said he had repeatedly pressed President Putin about the allegations of interference in the US vote.

“I said, <Did you do it?> He said, <No, I did not, absolutely not>. I then asked him a second time, in a totally different way. He said, <Absolutely not>.”

There are congressional investigations, and one by a special counsel, into the allegations of Russian interference in the US election and possible collusion with the Trump team.

On July 18, the Senate intelligence committee said it wanted to interview Donald Trump’s son, Donald Jr., and other members of the Trump team, over a meeting they had with a Russian lawyer in June 2016.

Donald Trump Jr. said he had attended the meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya as he was promised damaging material on Hillary Clinton, but it did not materialize.

On July 19, Natalia Veselnitskaya told Russia’s RT TV channel she would be willing to testify before the Senate on the matter.

Meanwhile, the White House said President Trump would nominate former Utah governor Jon Huntsman as ambassador to Russia, a key post for a president who promised to improve relations with Moscow.

Jon Huntsman, who served as ambassador to China and Singapore, needs to have his name confirmed by the Senate.

The suspicions over Russian interference are likely to play a significant factor in his confirmation process, correspondents say.

The new Republican healthcare policy should be to allow ObamaCare to collapse, said President Donald Trump.

He told reporters of the current healthcare law: “I’m not going to own it.”

“I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it.”

Support for the Republican Senate bill fell apart on July 17 when two more senators said they could not back it.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said President Trump was “playing a dangerous game” with the US healthcare system.

Image source Flickr

ObamaCare Replacement: Republican Efforts to Find Alternative Fail

He said on July 18: “He is actively, actively trying to undermine the healthcare system in this country using millions of Americans as political pawns in a cynical game.”

Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said the chamber would vote early next week on a motion for repealing ObamaCare only.

However, with at least three Republicans against the plan B, it is probably doomed, too.

Donald Trump backed the just-repeal-it plan on July 17 but changed his tune on the next day by proposing to simply let ObamaCare – which has failed to curb rising costs as insurance options dwindle – die on its own.

“As I have always said, let ObamaCare fail and then come together and do a great healthcare plan. Stay tuned!” the president tweeted.

Donald Trump has invited all Republican senators to discuss healthcare over lunch at the White House on July 19.

Without a replacement bill, analysts have estimated that millions of people would lose health insurance.

The GOP’s proposed alternative includes steep cuts to Medicaid, a healthcare program for the poor and disabled, removed the individual mandate requiring all Americans to have health insurance or pay a tax penalty and implemented a six-month lockout period for anyone who lets their health coverage lapse for more than two months.

The House of Representatives passed a similar version of the Senate bill, but slashed taxes on the wealthy used to pay for the health scheme. The Senate proposed a similar provision but was forced to ditch it amid opposition.

Republican efforts to find a replacement for ObamaCare have collapsed.

Two Republican senators said they opposed the GOP’s proposed alternative, making it impossible for the bill to pass in its current form.

The GOP has been divided on the issue, with moderates concerned about the effects on the most vulnerable.

President Donald Trump has now called for repeal of President Obama’s healthcare system, so Republicans can start “from a clean slate”.

That task falls to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Mitch McConnell said: “Regretfully, it is now apparent that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of ObamaCare will not be successful.”

Image source PicServer

President Trump had made repealing and replacing ObamaCare, under which more than 20 million people gained healthcare coverage, a key campaign pledge.

Republicans view the 2010 legislation as an overreach of the federal government and say patients have less choice and higher premiums.

The GOP’s proposed alternative had kept key ObamaCare taxes on the wealthy, while imposing sharp cuts to healthcare for the poor and allowing insurers to offer less coverage.

Two Republican senators, Mike Lee and Jerry Moran, said the new legislation did not go far enough in repealing ObamaCare.

Jerry Moran said “we should not put our stamp of approval on bad policy” while for Mike Lee, “in addition to not repealing all of the ObamaCare taxes [the bill] doesn’t go far enough in lowering premiums for middle class families; nor does it create enough free space from the most costly ObamaCare regulations”.

Two senators – Rand Paul and Susan Collins – had already opposed the bill.

Rand Paul said the bill kept too much of the “ObamaCare taxes”, while Susan Collins expressed concerns about cuts to Medicaid.

With the two new opponents, Republicans – who hold 52 seats – no longer have enough votes to pass the bill in the 100-member Senate.

Moderate Republicans had also said the bill would have harmed some of their vulnerable constituents.

The non-partisan Congressional Budgetary Office (CBO) found the bill would have stripped 22 million Americans of health insurance over the next decade.

On top of that, polls had shown ObamaCare remained popular among Americans – a survey by the Washington Post and ABC News on July 17 found more than twice as many people preferred Barrack Obama’s program to the proposed alternative.

0

More than seven million Venezuelan voters have taken part in an opposition-organized referendum in the country, according to academics monitoring the poll.

The referendum result strongly backed opposition to the socialist government’s proposed constitutional changes.

Venezuela remains polarized between supporters of President Nicolas Maduro and the opposition, which wants fresh elections.

A 61-year-old woman was shot dead while queuing to vote in the capital, Caracas.

Venezuela: Leopoldo Lopez Released from Jail After Three Years

Men on motorbikes opened fire, killing Xiomara Soledad Scott, and wounding three others.

Image source teleSUR

The opposition blamed a “paramilitary” gang for the shooting, which prosecutors said they would investigate.

Separately, journalist Luis Olavarrieta was kidnapped, robbed and beaten by a group, but managed to escape.

More than 100 people have died in clashes and protests in Venezuela since April.

Venezuela Opposition Sets Up Roadblocks and Demands Early Elections

Cecilia García Arocha, the rector of the Central University of Venezuela, said 6,492,381 people voted within the country and another 693,789 at polling stations abroad. However, the vote has no legal status.

The turnout is slightly less than the 7.7 million people who voted for opposition candidates at the 2015 parliamentary elections. There are 19.5 million registered voters in Venezuela.

Venezuela’s Supreme Court Attacked by Helicopter

Voting Yes or No to three questions, 98% rejected the new assembly proposed by President Nicolas Maduro and backed a call for elections before his term of office ends in 2019.

They also voted for the armed forces to defend the current constitution.

An official vote will be held on July 30 for a new assembly, which would have the power to rewrite the constitution and to dissolve state institutions. However, critics say the new assembly could herald dictatorship.

The July 16 unofficial poll was held in improvised polling stations at theaters, sports grounds and roundabouts within Venezuela and in more than 100 countries around the world.

However, President Maduro described the vote as “meaningless”.

“They have convened an internal consultation with the opposition parties, with their own mechanisms, without electoral rulebooks, without prior verification, without further verification. As if they are autonomous and decide on their own,” he said.

Nicolas Maduro argues that the constituent assembly is the only way to help Venezuela out of its economic and political crisis.

Opposition leaders fear that the process of setting up a new constituent assembly and rewriting the constitution would almost certainly delay this year’s regional elections and the 2018 presidential election.

They also fear that the constituent assembly would further weaken the National Assembly, Venezuela’s opposition-controlled legislative body.

0

Cuban President Raul Castro has spoken publicly for the first time against President Donald Trump’s rollback of a thaw between the two countries a month ago.

Raul Castro said “attempts to destroy the revolution” would fail.

President Trump has tightened restrictions on US travel to and business with Cuba.

However, the US embassy in Havana, re-opened by former President Barack Obama, is still operating.

Fidel Castro Death: Donald Trump Calls Cuban Leader “Brutal Dictator”

President Castro was speaking in front of Cuba’s national assembly. It was his first public comment on the policy changes President Trump announced a month ago.

State-run Cuban media quoted President Castro as saying that President Trump was using “old and hostile rhetoric” and had returned to “confrontation that roundly failed over 55 years”.

The Cuban president said: “We reject the manipulation of the topic of human rights against Cuba, which can be proud of much in this area and does not need to receive lessons from the United States nor anyone.”

Barack Obama and Raul Castro Hold Historic Joint News Conference

Donald Trump anchored his policy rollback in human rights concerns raised by political opponents of Cuba’s communist government, many of whom have fled to Miami where the president announced the changes on June 16.

President Castro continued: “Cuba and the United States can cooperate and live side by side, respecting their differences. But no one should expect that for this, one should have to make concessions inherent to one’s sovereignty and independence.”

Raul Castro will step down as president in seven months, but will remain the head of the country’s Communist Party.

0

Rinat Akhmetshin, a former Soviet intel officer turned lobbyist, attended a meeting last year with senior aides to President Donald Trump and his son, it has emerged.

Rinat Akhmetshin confirmed to media he was present at the Trump Tower encounter.

Donald Trump Jr. was promised damaging material on Hillary Clinton at the meeting, his emails show.

Donald Trump’s eldest son has only previously acknowledged that a Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, was present.

Donald Trump Jr. has played down the June 9, 2016, meeting since it was reported this week.

However, the Senate Judiciary Committee has asked Donald Trump Jr. to publicly testify.

Donald Trump Jr.’s Email Chain on Russia Meeting in Full

Several congressional panels and federal investigators are looking into claims that Russia meddled in last year’s election in a bid to help Donald Trump.

The New York meeting was also attended by Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and election chairman, Paul Manafort.

It has emerged as the firmest evidence yet of non-diplomatic interactions between Trump campaign aides and Russian figures.

During a news conference in Paris, France, on Thursday, President Trump said that “most people would have taken that meeting”.

Image source Flickr

“Zero happened,” he said.

Rinat Akhmetshin told the AP news agency he served in a Soviet military unit that was part of counterintelligence, but that he was never formally trained as a spy.

In court papers filed with the US District Court in Washington DC, where he lives, a mining company accused him of organizing a hack on its private records as part of an alleged smear campaign.

Donald Trump Jr. Admits Meeting Russian Lawyer During Campaign

International Mineral Resources hired a private investigator to follow Rinat Akhmetshin to London.

The Russian-American was overheard in a coffee shop bragging about arranging the cyber-attack on the firm’s computer system, according to court documents.

Rinat Akhmetshin denied the allegations, and the case was later dropped.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says the Russian government knows nothing about Rinat Akhmetshin, the AP reported.

Rinat Akhmetshin told the Washington Post he became a US citizen in 2009 but retains his Russian nationality.

He is a registered lobbyist who has focused in recent years on overturning the 2012 US Magnitsky Act.

The law, which froze the assets of senior Russian officials, angered President Vladimir Putin.

Rinat Akhmetshin told the Washington Post he only accompanied Natalia Veselnitskaya to the Trump Tower meeting on the spur of the moment after meeting her for lunch.

He said he showed up with her at the Manhattan skyscraper wearing jeans and a T-shirt.

Rinat Akhmetshin said he and Natalia Veselnitskaya were joined by an interpreter.

“I never thought this would be such a big deal, to be honest,” he said.

The meeting was set up by Rob Goldstone, a British music publicist for Russian pop star Emin Agalarov.

Emin Agalarov worked with Donald Trump on staging the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013.

Emails show that Rob Goldstone promised Donald Trump Jr. that Natalia Veselnitskaya, whom he described as a “Russian government attorney”, would share damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

Donald Trump Jr. said it became apparent as they spoke that Natalia Veselnitskaya wanted to discuss a suspended program for Americans to adopt Russian children.

However, Rinat Akhmetshin told the AP that Natalia Veselnitskaya informed Donald Trump Jr. she had details of possible illicit funds being funneled to the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

“This could be a good issue to expose how the DNC is accepting bad money,” he said he recalled her saying.

According to Rinat Akhmetshin, Donald Trump Jr. asked her if she had evidence to prove the claim, but the lawyer urged the Trump campaign to research the matter.

Donald Trump’s son appeared to lose interest, said Rinat Akhmetshin.

“They couldn’t wait for the meeting to end,” he added.

0

President Donald Trump has joined French President Emmanuel Macron the Bastille Day parade in Paris, where US and French troops marched together down the Champs-Élysées.

Donald Trump was guest of honor as the annual parade this time marked 100 years since the Americans entered World War One.

President Emmanuel Macron said “nothing will ever separate” France and the US, and President Trump’s presence showed “a friendship across the ages”.

Earlier Emmanuel Macron stood in a military jeep and inspected the troops.

He is now in Nice, attending a commemoration for last year’s Bastille Day terrorist attack, in which a Tunisian-born man drove a huge lorry into a celebrating crowd on the beachfront, killing 86 people.

Image source Wikimedia

At the start of the ceremony people were honored for their heroism on the night.

They included Franck Terrier, the man who drove his scooter alongside the speeding truck and jumped on to its cab, punching the driver through the window in a desperate attempt to force him to stop.

Franck Terrier was given a lengthy ovation and awarded the Légion d’honneur – France’s highest order of merit.

France remains under a state of emergency, following a spate of terror attacks by jihadists.

In Paris earlier, President Donald Trump and the First Lady warmly embraced their French counterparts – Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte.

Donald Trump called Bastille Day “a wonderful national celebration”.

“Our two nations are forever joined together by the spirit of revolution and the fight for freedom,” he said.

Earlier, he suggested he could review his position on climate change, after Emmanuel Macron argued in defense of the 2015 Paris accord.

G20 Final Agreement Acknowledges Donald Trump’s Withdrawal from Paris Climate Change Deal

“Something could happen with respect to the Paris accord,” President Trump said.

“We’ll see what happens.”

Last month President Trump had said the US would withdraw from the Paris accord, citing moves to negotiate a new “fair” deal that would not disadvantage US businesses.

Yesterday, First Lady Melania Trump toured Notre Dame cathedral with Brigitte Macron, and prayed before a statue of the Virgin Mary.

China’s most prominent human rights and democracy advocate and Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo has died aged 61.

Liu Xiaobo had been serving an 11-year prison term for “subversion” and was recently moved to a hospital due to a terminal liver cancer.

A university professor turned tireless rights campaigner, Liu Xiaobo was branded a criminal by authorities.

The Nobel Committee said the Chinese government bore a “heavy responsibility” for Liu Xiaobo’s death.

He was repeatedly jailed throughout his life. When not in prison, Liu Xiaobo was subject to severe restrictions while his wife, Liu Xia, was placed under house arrest.

Liu Hui: China Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo’s brother-in-law sentenced to 11 years in jail

Liu Xiaobo played a significant role in the Tiananmen student protests of June 1989 which ended in bloodshed when they were quashed by troops.

Image source Wikipedia

He and other activists negotiated the safe exit of several hundred demonstrators, and have been credited with saving the protesters’ lives.

Liu Xiaobo was subsequently placed in a detention center and released in 1991.

Liu Xiaobo’s brother-in-law Liu Hui arrested in China

His campaign to free those detained during Tiananmen landed him in a labor camp in north-eastern China for three years but he was permitted to marry poet Liu Xia there in 1996.

Liu Xiaobo was later freed, and continued to campaign for democracy.

The 11-year jail term he was serving when he died was handed down in 2009 after he compiled, with other intellectuals, the Charter 08 manifesto.

This was a call for an end to one-party rule and the introduction of multi-party democracy. Liu Xiaobo was found guilty of trying to overthrow the state.

He was a pro-democracy figurehead for activists outside mainland China, although many of his compatriots were unaware of his struggles because the authorities rigorously censored news about him.

Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 for his “long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China”, but he was not permitted to travel to Norway to accept it.

Liu Xiaobo was the second person to receive the award while in prison – the other was the German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, who won in 1935 while incarcerated in a Nazi concentration camp.

0

Brazil’s ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been convicted of corruption charges and sentenced to nine and a half years in jail.

The judge ruled Lula da Silva could remain free pending an appeal.

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has rejected claims that he received an apartment as a bribe in a corruption scandal linked to state oil company Petrobras.

The former leader says the trial is politically motivated and has strongly denied any wrongdoing.

The case is the first of five charges against Lula da Silva.

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva served eight years as president until 2011 and has expressed interest in running again in the 2018 elections for the left-wing Workers’ Party.

Image source Wikimedia

On July 12, a judge found the former president guilty of accepting bribes from engineering company OAS in the form of a beachfront apartment in return for his help in winning contracts with the state oil company.

In a statement, his lawyers insisted he was innocent and said they would appeal.

“For more than three years Lula has been subject to a politically motivated investigation. No credible evidence of guilt has been produced, and overwhelming proof of his innocence blatantly ignored,” they wrote.

The head of the Workers’ Party, Senator Gleisi Hoffmann, also hit out at the ruling, saying it was designed to stop Lula da Silva standing for office.

Gleisi Hoffmann said the party would protest against the decision.

In theory, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is free to run in the presidential election until the legal process ends.

The charges he faces relate to the Car Wash scandal, the nickname for Brazil’s biggest ever corruption probe.

Operation Car Wash was launched three years ago amid escalating public anger over political corruption.

The investigation centers on companies that were allegedly offered deals with Petrobras in exchange for bribes, which were funneled into politicians’ pockets and party slush funds.

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a former steel worker turned union leader, came to office as the first left-wing leader in Brazil in nearly half a century.

He was Brazil’s most popular president during his tenure – former President Barack Obama labeled him the most popular politician on Earth.

Unable to stand for a third consecutive term, he was succeeded by close ally Dilma Rousseff, who was later impeached.

Brazil’s current President Michel Temer also faces corruption allegations and is resisting calls for him to step down.

Donald Trump Jr. has said he did not tell his father about a meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya who said she could help his election campaign.

President Trump’s son told Fox News the meeting was “just a nothing” but he should have handled it differently.

He released emails showing he had welcomed an offer to meet Natalia Veselnitskaya, who allegedly had Kremlin ties and material damaging to Hillary Clinton.

US officials are investigating alleged Russian meddling in the US election.

Since he was elected, Donald Trump has been dogged by allegations that Russia tried to sabotage Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

President Trump has denied any knowledge of this and Russia has also repeatedly denied interfering.

Image source Wikipedia

Asked by Fox News’ Sean Hannity if he had told his father about last year’s meeting, Donald Trump Jr. said: “No. It was such a nothing. There was nothing to tell.

“I mean, I wouldn’t have even remembered it until you started scouring through this stuff. It was literally just a wasted 20 minutes, which was a shame.”

Donald Trump Jr., his brother-in-law Jared Kushner and Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort met Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in New York in June 2016.

Donald Trump Jr.’s Email Chain on Russia Meeting in Full

Donald Trump’s son received an email from an intermediary, British music publicist Rob Goldstone, promising documents from Russia that would incriminate Hillary Clinton.

At that time, Donald Trump was the presumptive Republican nominee and heading towards an election fight against his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

The meeting was reportedly arranged by Russian businessman Aras Agalarov and his son Emin, a pop star who was managed for a time by Rob Goldstone.

Russia Threatens to Expel 30 US Diplomats in Retaliation for Washington’s Sanctions

One email from Rob Goldstone said the information they had been promised was “obviously very high-level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump”.

Donald Trump Jr.’s response to it was: “If it’s what you say I love it.”

The meeting took place, but Donald Trump Jr. told Fox News Natalia Veselnitskaya had provided them with nothing of use and it only lasted 20 minutes.

Donald Trump Jr. has released an email chain showing he was offered “sensitive” information on Hillary Clinton by a Russian national.

Here’s a statement by Donald Trump Jr. published on July 11, 2017:

“To everyone, in order to be totally transparent, I am releasing the entire email chain of my emails with Rob Goldstone about the meeting on June 9, 2016. The first email on June 3, 2016 was from Rob, who was relating a request from Emin, a person I knew from 2013 Ms. Universe Pageant near Moscow. Emin and his father have a very highly respected company in Moscow. The information they suggested they had about Hillary Clinton I thought was Political Opposition Research. I first wanted to just have phone call but when that didn’t work out, they said the woman would be in new York and asked if I would meet. I decided to take the meeting. The woman, as she has said publicly, was not a government official. And, as we have said, she had no information to provide and wanted to talk about adoption policy and the Magnitsky Act. To put this in context, this occurred before the current Russian fever was in vogue. As Rob Goldstone said just today in the press, the entire meeting was <<the most inane nonsense I ever heard. And I was actually agitated by it>>.”

Rob Goldstone is a publicist, Emin Agalarov is an Azerbaijani businessman and singer-songwriter. Aras Agalarov is Emin’s father and an Azerbaijani-Russian businessman and public figure.

Image source Wikimedia

Donald Trump Jr. Releases Email Chain Showing Russia Communication

Below is the full text of the exchange in chronological order and also a statement released by President Trump’s son:

On June 3, 2016, at 10:36, Rob Goldstone  wrote:

Good morning

Emin just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting.

The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and be very useful to your father.

This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump – helped along by Aras and Emin.

What do you think is the best way to handle this information and would you be able to speak to Emin about it directly?

I can also send this info to your father via Rhona, but it is ultra sensitive so wanted to send to you first.

Best

Rob Goldstone

On June 3, 2016, at 10:53, Donald Trump Jr. wrote:

Thanks Rob I appreciate that,. I am on the road at the moment but perhaps I just speak to Emin first. Seems we have some time and if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summers. Could we do a call first thing next week when I am back?

Best,

Don

On June 6, 2016, at 12:40, Rob Goldstone wrote:

Hi Don

Let me know when you are free to talk with Emin by phone about this Hillary info – you had mentioned early this week so wanted to try to schedule a time and day Best to you and family Rob Goldstone

On June 6, 2016, at 15:03, Donald Trump Jr. wrote:

Rob could we speak now?

d

On June 6, 2016, at 15:37, Rob Goldstone wrote:

Let me track him down in Moscow

What number he could call?

On June 6, 2016, at 15:38, Donald Trump Jr. wrote:

My cell thanks

On June 6, 2016, at 15:43, Rob Goldstone wrote:

OK he’s on stage in Moscow but should be off within 20 minutes so I am sure can call Rob

On June 6, 2016, at 16:38, Donald Trump Jr. wrote:

Rob thanks for the help.

D.

On June 7, 2016, at 16:20, Rob Goldstone wrote:

Don

Hope all is well

Emin asked that I schedule a meeting with you and The Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow for this Thursday.

I believe you are aware of the meeting – and so wondered if 3pm or later on Thursday works for you?

I assume it would be at your office.

Best

Rob Goldstone

On June 7, 2016, at 17:16, Donald Trump Jr. wrote:

How about 3 at our offices? Thanks rob appreciate you helping set it up.

D

On June 7, 2016, at 17:19, Rob Goldstone wrote:

Perfect… I won’t sit in on the meeting, but will bring them at 3pm and introduce you etc.

I will send the names of the two people with you for security when I have them later today.

best

Rob

On June 7, 2016, at 18:14, Donald Trump Jr. wrote:

Great. It will likely be Paul Manafort (campaign boss) my brother in law [Jared Kushner] and me. 725 Fifth Ave 25th floor.

On June 8, 2016, at 10:34, Rob Goldstone wrote:

Good morning

Would it be possible to move tomorrow meeting at 4pm as the Russian attorney is in court until 3 i was just informed.

Best

Rob

On June 8, 2016, at 11:15, Donald Trump Jr. wrote:

Yes Rob I could do that unless they wanted to do 3 today instead… just let me know and ill lock it in either way.

d

On June 8, 2016, at 11:18, Rob Goldstone wrote:

They can’t do today as she hasn’t landed yet from Moscow 4pm is great tomorrow.

Best

Rob

On June 8, 2016 at 12:03, Donald Trump Jr. wrote to Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort:

Meeting got moved to 4 tomorrow at my offices.

Best,

Don

Donald Trump Jr. has released an email chain showing he was keen to accept “sensitive” information on Hillary Clinton from a Russian national.

Publicist Rob Goldstone tells Donald Trump Jr. that there is information that is “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump”.

Donald Trump’s son replies: “If it’s what you say, I love it.”

The emails led to a meeting in New York with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.

It appears to be the first confirmation that a Trump associate attended a meeting in the expectation of being handed sensitive information from Russian officials.

US officials are currently investigating alleged Russian meddling in the US election.

Donald Trump Jr. Admits Meeting Russian Lawyer During Campaign

President Donald Trump issued a brief statement in support of his son, describing him as “a high-quality person” and applauding his transparency.

Image source Wikimedia

The emails to Donald Trump Jr., which he released on Twitter, say “the crown prosecutor of Russia” (a role that does not exist) had “offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father”.

The email chain was also forwarded to Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law, and campaign manager Paul Manafort.

All three later met Natalia Veselnitskaya at New York’s Trump Tower.

Russia Investigation: Jared Kushner Is under FBI Scrutiny

Since he was elected, Donald Trump has been dogged by allegations that Russia tried to sabotage Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The president has denied any knowledge of this and Russia has also repeatedly denied interfering.

In May, the DoJ appointed ex-FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to look into the Russian matter.

The New York Times first reported on July 8 that a meeting had taken place on June 9, 2016, between Natalia Veselnitskaya and the Trump team.

It later reported that Donald Trump Jr. had earlier been offered alleged damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

The Times had been expected to publish emails connected to the meeting, but Donald Trump Jr. pre-empted this by posting the email chain on Twitter.

He had earlier admitted meeting Natalia Veselnitskaya but insisted she had provided “no meaningful information”. He said she had wanted to talk about adoptions.

Natalia Veselnitskaya, who has been linked to the Russian government, has insisted she was never in possession of information that could have damaged Hillary Clinton.

The Russian lawyer said Donald Trump’s son and two senior campaign aides may have met her last summer because they were “longing” for such information. She has denied any connection with the Kremlin.

The email chain released by Donald Trump Jr. shows that:

  • On June 3, 2016, he received an email from intermediary Rob Goldstone promising documents from Russia that would incriminate Hillary Clinton and her supposed dealings with Russia;
  • One email from Rob Goldstone said the information they had been promised was “obviously very high-level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump”;
  • The person who was to meet Donald Trump Jr. in New York was described as “a Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow”;
  • Within the week, a meeting had been arranged which included Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort.

Donald Trump Jr. also posted a statement saying he was releasing the email chain “to be totally transparent” and reiterated that the Russian lawyer had “no information to provide”.

Rob Goldstone has previously denied any knowledge of involvement in the election by the Russian government.

0

Russia is threatening to expel about 30 US diplomats and seize US state property in retaliation for Washington’s sanctions, local officials confirm.

The threat came from Russian foreign ministry sources, quoted by the daily Izvestia. Other Russian officials have made similar statements recently.

In December 2016, the Obama administration expelled 35 Russian diplomats and shut down two intelligence compounds.

The measures were a response to alleged Russian meddling in the US election.

Russia was already under US sanctions.

Former President Barack Obama acted against Russia after US intelligence sources had accused Russian state agents of hacking into Democratic Party computers to undermine Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Trump Vows To “Move Forward” In Relations With Russia

President Vladimir Putin raised the issue of the Obama sanctions with President Donald Trump when they met in Hamburg last week, Izvestia reported.

Meanwhile, the Trump team is under investigation over alleged Russian collusion during last year’s presidential campaign. Russia has strongly denied interfering in the election.

In addition to expelling 35 Russian diplomats from Washington and San Francisco, the Obama administration imposed sanctions on nine entities and individuals including Russia’s GRU and FSB intelligence agencies. The US closed Russian intelligence compounds in New York and Maryland.

Donald Trump Jr. Admits Meeting Russian Lawyer During Campaign

President Putin refrained from tit-for-tat retaliation – unlike in previous diplomatic spats.

Russia says President Donald Trump presented “no plan to resolve the crisis” when the issue was raised in Hamburg.

An unnamed Russian diplomat told Izvestia that in retaliation Russia could seize a US government dacha (country villa) at Serebryany Bor, to the northwest of Moscow, and a US warehouse in the city itself.

Donald Trump Shifts His Position on Working with Russia for A Joint Cyber Security Unity

However, the US ambassador’s Spaso House residence and the Anglo-American School in St Petersburg would not be affected.

Russia would carry out the threat if no compromise was reached at a St Petersburg meeting later this month between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and US Under Secretary of State Thomas Shannon, Izvestia reported.

The US and its Western allies have also imposed wide-ranging sanctions on Russia because of Moscow’s role in the Ukraine conflict.

Russia blocked most imported Western food and drink in retaliation.

Donald Trump Jr. has admitted meeting a Russian lawyer last year who, he says, promised to reveal damaging material on Hillary Clinton.

However, the president’s son insisted that Natalia Veselnitskaya had provided “no meaningful information” on his father’s rival for the presidency.

President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and then-campaign head, Paul J. Manafort, were also at the meeting.

US officials are currently investigating alleged Russian meddling in the US election.

The meeting took place on June 9, 2016, at New York’s Trump Tower, just two weeks after Donald Trump secured the Republican nomination.

Donald Trump Shifts His Position on Working with Russia for A Joint Cyber Security Unity

It is thought to be the first confirmed private meeting between a Russian national and members of Donald Trump’s inner circle.

After the New York Times first reported the meeting on July 8, Donald Trump Jr. released a statement which confirmed that it had taken place but did not mention whether it was related to the presidential campaign.

However, another Times report, on the next day, said Donald Trump Jr. had agreed to the meeting after being offered information that would potentially prove detrimental to Hillary Clinton.

Russia Election Hacking: Donald Trump Accuses Obama Administration of Inaction

The newspaper cited three White House advisers briefed on the meeting, and two others with knowledge for it, as its sources.

Image source Wikimedia

Donald Trump Jr. said that an acquaintance he had known from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant had set up the meeting. The Washington Post confirmed that figure to be music publicist Rob Goldstone, who has links to the Russian music industry.

In a statement on July 9, Donald Trump Jr. said he had been asked to meet “an individual who I was told might have information helpful to the campaign”.

“I was not told her name prior to the meeting. I asked Jared [Kushner] and Paul [Manafort] to attend, but told them nothing of the substance.”

Donald Trump Jr.’s statement continues: “After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Mrs. Clinton.

“Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.

“She then changed subjects and began discussing the adoption of Russian children and mentioned the Magnitsky Act.

“It became clear to me that this was the true agenda all along and that the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext for the meeting.”

Russia Investigation: Jared Kushner Is under FBI Scrutiny

Natalia Veselnitskaya said on July 8 that “nothing at all was discussed about the presidential campaign” and insisted she had “never acted on behalf of the Russian government and have never discussed any of these matters with any representative of the Russian government”.

The Magnitsky Act was adopted by Congress in 2012 and allows the US to withhold visas and freeze financial assets of Russian officials thought to have been involved in human rights violations.

The law so incensed President Vladimir Putin that he suspended a program allowing Americans to adopt Russian children.

Natalia Veselnitskaya is a lawyer whose clients include companies and individuals said to be close to the Kremlin and her main role has been campaigning against the Magnitsky Act.

0

President Donald Trump has backtracked on a proposal to work with Russia to create an “impenetrable” cyber security unit to prevent election hacking.

Hours after promoting the idea on July 9, Donald Trump said that he did not think it could actually happen.

The idea of a partnership with Russia was ridiculed by senior Republicans.

It comes after President Trump’s first face-to-face talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Germany on July 7, in which the pair discussed the issue.

G20 Hamburg: Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin Meet Face to Face for First Time

President Trump described the outcome of the talks as positive and suggested closer co-operation between the two nations.

“Putin and I discussed forming an impenetrable cyber security unit so that election hacking, and many other negative things, will be guarded and safe,” he said.

The initial proposal immediately prompted derision from Democrats, as well as some Republicans who questioned why the US would work with Russia after the Kremlin’s alleged meddling in the 2016 US election.

Russia Hacking Briefing: Vladimir Putin Developed a Clear Preference for Donald Trump

President Trump shifted his position on the next day, saying on Twitter: “The fact that President Putin and I discussed a cyber security unit doesn’t mean I think it can happen. It can’t.”

However, the president stressed that another issue discussed in his talks with Vladimir Putin, a ceasefire in south-western Syria, had come into effect.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin had sought to defend the proposed cyber unit after President Trump’s initial announcement.

Speaking on ABC’s This Week, Steve Mnuchin described it as a “significant accomplishment” for President Trump.

“What we want to make sure is that we co-ordinate with Russia,” he added.

Rex Tillerson Hearing: Trump’s Pick for Secretary of State Accepts Vladimir Putin Knew of Russian Hacking

However, Republican Senator Marco Rubio suggested that such an initiative would be like partnering with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on chemical weapons.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said: “It’s not the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard, but it’s pretty close.”

A special prosecutor is investigating whether Trump associates colluded with alleged Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US election.

Both Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin said the allegations had been discussed.

However, the two sides described the content of the meeting differently.

President Trump said he “strongly pressed” the issue with Vladimir Putin, who had “vehemently denied” interfering in the US election.

The president also said it was time to work more “constructively” with Russia.

Vladimir Putin said he believed President Trump had accepted his assurances that Moscow had not interfered in the vote.

However, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said interference in the 2016 election remained an impediment to better relations with Russia, while the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said the US “can’t trust Russia” and “won’t ever trust Russia”.

0

Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro has surprisingly praised opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez’s jail release.

Leopoldo Lopez, one of Venezuela’s main opposition leaders, has been moved to house arrest after more than three years in jail.

He left a prison near Caracas and was reunited with his family on July 8.

Leopoldo Lopez Mendoza was serving a 14-year sentence for inciting violence during anti-government protests in 2014, a charge he has always denied. The Supreme Court said he was released on health grounds.

Venezuela: Leopoldo Lopez Jailed for 13 Years and Nine Months

President Maduro said he “respected” and “supported” the Supreme Court’s decision but called for “a message of peace and rectification” in Venezuela.

Hours after being freed, Leopoldo Lopez urged supporters to continue protesting in the streets against Nicolas Maduro.

Venezuela’s opposition and international powers have long pressed for Lopez’s freedom. The head of the Organization of American States regional bloc, Luis Almagro, said the court’s decision offered an opportunity for national reconciliation.

Image source Flickr

Former opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles stressed “he must be given his full liberty together with all political prisoners”, Reuters reported.

Giving a glimpse of his son’s life behind bars, Leopoldo Lopez’s father told Spanish radio “a few days ago they had punished him with solitary confinement without light or water for three days”.

He said his son was now wearing an electronic tag so that the authorities could keep abreast of his movements.

Venezuela: Brazilian Senators Attacked After Trying to Meet Jailed Opposition Leader Leopoldo Lopez

Leopoldo Lopez’s wife had complained that she had not been allowed to see him for more than a month, but on July 7 she tweeted she had been allowed an hour-long meeting.

In May, a government lawmaker published a video of Leopoldo Lopez in his cell following rumors that he had been poisoned and taken to hospital.

In the video, Leopoldo Lopez – a Harvard-educated former mayor who has been prevented by the government from standing for public office – said he was well and did not know why he was being asked to prove he was still alive.

Venezuela has been experiencing a wave of anti-government protests similar to those over which Leopoldo Lopez was jailed.

The opposition is calling for early elections and the release of opposition politicians jailed in recent years, saying the socialist governments of President Nicolas Maduro and his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, have mismanaged the economy since coming to power in 1999.

0

Leaders of 19 nations at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, have renewed their pledge to implement the Paris deal on climate change, despite the US pulling out.

Deadlock over the issue had held up the last day of talks in Hamburg but a final agreement was eventually reached.

The final agreement acknowledges President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement without undermining the commitment of other countries.

The compromise comes after violent protests in the host city.

The joint summit statement released on July 8 said: “We take note of the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.”

However, the leaders of the other G20 members agreed the accord was “irreversible”.

The statement also said the US would “endeavor to work closely with other countries to help them access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently”.

President Trump has pledged to help the US coal industry make a comeback and has previously characterized the Paris agreement as aiming to disadvantage his country’s workers.

In press conference as the two-day summit drew to a close, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she still deplored President Trump’s position on the Paris accord but she was “gratified” the other 19 nations opposed its renegotiation.

As well as insisting on the inclusion of separate America-only paragraphs in the final text, Donald Trump canceled his own scheduled news conference on July 8, reinforcing the image of the G20 as the G19 + 1.

“I think it’s very clear that we could not reach consensus, but the differences were not papered over, they were clearly stated,” Angela Merkel told reporters.

Angela Merkel said she did not share the view of UK Prime Minister Theresa May that Washington could decide to return to the climate agreement.

However, Theresa May reiterated her belief that the US could rejoin the accord in her news conference on July 8.

French President Emmanuel Macron also remained hopeful of persuading President Trump to change his mind, saying: “I never despair of convincing him because I think it’s my duty.”

Emmanuel Macron announced that Paris would host another summit on December 12 to make further progress on the climate agreement and to address financing.

There have been large protests in the city, with demonstrators and armed police clashing into the early hours of Saturday.

G20 Hamburg: Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin Meet Face to Face for First Time

Demonstrators – who were protesting against the presence of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, climate change and global wealth inequalities – set fire to vehicles and barricades, threw rocks at officers and looted shops.

At one point, police chased protesters across rooftops while officers on the streets used water cannon on protesters.

Nearly 200 police officers were injured during the protests. Dozens of protesters have been detained.

0

According to Japanese officials, the death toll from flooding caused by recent heavy rain in the country’s southern region has risen to at least 15.

Rescue teams are searching for another 15 people who are missing.

Rivers burst their banks, destroying buildings and roads after more than 20in of rain fell on parts of Kyushu, Japan’s southernmost island, over a 12-hour period on July 5.

Image source Wikimedia

Emergency teams are working through thick mud to try to reach stranded survivors. Hundreds have already been evacuated.

The worst-hit areas are in Fukuoka prefecture.

Japan floods: more than 250,000 people ordered to leave their homes

Announcing the revised death toll, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the region was expected to see further heavy rain on July 8.

About 12,000 police, military, firefighters and coast guard personnel have taking part in the rescue operation.

Japan Flood 2015: At Least Three Dead and Hundreds Stranded