Author: Depoworld

Tokyo Olympic Medals to Be Made from Recycled Phones

The medals for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics will be made from metals reclaimed from discarded cell phones.

Olympic organizers say they are asking the Japanese public to donate old phones or other old electronic appliances in an effort to collect as much as eight tons of metal to produce the 5,000 gold, silver and bronze medals that will be awarded during both events.

Starting in April, special boxes for donated phones will be placed in offices and phone stores.

“A project that allows the people of Japan to take part in creating the medals is really good,” said Tokyo 2020 sports director Koji Murofushi, according to the BBC. “There’s a limit on the resources of our Earth, so recycling these things will make us think about the environment.”

The move was met with support from former U.S. Olympic gold medalist Ashton Eaton, who won back-to-back gold medals in the decathlon. He tweeted that he was tempted to come out of retirement to vie for one of the medals.

This will not be the first time recycled materials have been used to make Olympic medals. For the 2016 Rio Games, the bronze and silver medals were made in part from recycled products.

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Israel ‘Sorry for Any Hurt’ With Mexico Over Wall Tweet

Israel’s president told his Mexican counterpart on Tuesday that he was “sorry for the hurt” over a tweet in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to praise U.S. President Donald Trump’s plans to build a wall on the Mexican border.

In a tweet Saturday that drew a rebuke from Mexico, the right-wing Netanyahu wrote: “President Trump is right. I built a wall along Israel’s southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea.”

Netanyahu had earlier sidestepped Mexico’s demand for an apology and echoed previous Israeli explanations — rejected as insufficient by Mexico’s foreign minister on Monday — of his remarks on Twitter. He said his comments did not refer to ties between the United States and its southern neighbor.

The office of President Reuven Rivlin, whose post is largely ceremonial, issued a statement taking a more conciliatory line.

“I am sorry for any hurt caused as a result of this misunderstanding, but we must remember that we are talking about a misunderstanding, and I am sure that we can put the issue behind us,” Rivlin was quoted as telling Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.

Maintaining friendship

Mexico’s Foreign Ministry acknowledged Rivlin’s apology. The ministry said Pena Nieto told Rivlin the tweet had upset Mexico and its Jewish community, before adding that Mexico wanted to maintain its friendship and cooperation with Israel.

On Monday, Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray said he thought an apology would be “appropriate” for Netanyahu’s tweet, while noting that Israel was a close friend of Mexico.

Trump’s planned border wall, which he says will keep out illegal immigrants, along with his threat to impose punitive taxes against Mexico to rebalance trade, has brought about the worst crisis in U.S.-Mexican relations in decades. Trump signed an executive order last week ordering construction of the wall.

Netanyahu, in public remarks on Monday, said that in his tweet he had been referring to Trump’s praise for the barrier Israel constructed along the Egyptian frontier, a fence with electronic sensors that has largely halted the influx of African migrants.

“I did point out the remarkable success of Israel’s security fence. But I did not comment about U.S.-Mexico relations. We’ve had, and will continue to have, good relations with Mexico,” Netanyahu said in English at a cybersecurity conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday.

Political commentators and opposition politicians in Israel said Netanyahu’s tweet had needlessly thrust Israel into the U.S.-Mexican feud.

At the Tel Aviv conference, Netanyahu said that Israeli-Mexican ties “are much stronger than any passing disagreement or misunderstanding.”

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Factbox: Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch

NAME: Neil Gorsuch

BIRTHDATE: August 29, 1967

BIRTHPLACE: Denver, Colorado

EDUCATION:

1988 – B.A., Columbia University; 1991 – J.D., Harvard Law School; 2004 – D.Phil., University of Oxford

CURRENT JOB:

2006-present: Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit (appointed by President George W. Bush)

JOB HISTORY:

2005-2006: Principal deputy, associate attorney general, U.S. Department of Justice

1995-2005: Private law practice, Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans, and Figel, Washington, D.C.

1998-2005: Partner, Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans, and Figel, Washington, D.C.

1995-1998: Associate, Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans, and Figel, Washington, D.C.

1993-1994: Law clerk, Hon. Byron White and Hon. Anthony Kennedy, U.S. Supreme Court

1991-1992: Law clerk, Hon. David Sentelle, United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

FAMILY: Wife, Louise; two daughters, Emma (born 1999) and Belinda (born 2001). Gorsuch’s mother, Anne Gorsuch Burford, was the first female head of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Ronald Reagan.

OTHER ACCOMPLISHMENTS:

While at Columbia, Gorsuch co-founded a newspaper (The Federalist) and a magazine (The Morningside Review).

QUOTE:

“The independence of the judiciary depends upon people in both parties being willing to serve, good people being willing to serve who are capable and willing to put aside their personal politics and preferences to decide cases and to follow the law and not try and make it” — from his 2006 confirmation hearing for the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

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Supreme Court Nominee: Colorado Judge Neil Gorsuch

President Donald Trump has chosen Neil Gorsuch, a judge for the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Colorado, as his choice to fill the vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Trump made the announcement at a prime-time news conference at the White House Tuesday night in Washington, D.C.

Gorsuch would fill the seat left empty by the death of former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016.

Gorsuch, 49, would be among the youngest nominees for the court. Justice Clarence Thomas was 43 when nominated, and Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Elena Kagan were each 50 when confirmed.

10th Circuit Court of Appeals

Gorsuch, a native Coloradan, was appointed to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2006 by former President George W. Bush.

He received degrees from Columbia University, Harvard Law School and the University of Oxford. As a law student he clerked for Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy. White was also from Colorado.

Gorsuch is an avid outdoorsman, hunting, fishing and skiing in the mountainous state of Colorado.

He admired Scalia, calling the former justice a “lion of the law” during a speech at Case Western Reserve University Law School last year.

According to a revew in SCOTUSblog, a blog written about the Supreme Court by lawyers, and law professors and students, there are strong comparisons between Gorsuch and Scalia.

“The great compliment that Gorsuch’s legal writing is in a class with Scalia’s is deserved: Gorsuch’s opinions are exceptionally clear and routinely entertaining; he is an unusual pleasure to read, and it is always plain exactly what he thinks and why,” SCOTUSblog wrote.

“Like Scalia, Gorsuch also seems to have a set of judicial/ideological commitments apart from his personal policy preferences that drive his decision-making,” the website’s analysis said.

Natural successor

The blog also said one study found him to be the most natural successor to Scalia, in terms of his judicial style and substantive approach.

Law professor Justin Marceau described Gorsuch as “a predictably socially conservative judge who tends to favor state power over federal power,” according to a report by The Denver Post in December 2016.

On the 10th Circuit, Gorsuch has written 175 majority opinions and 65 concurrences or dissents, Rebecca Love Kourlis, a former Colorado Supreme Court justice, told the Associated Press.

Gorsuch has not ruled on abortion, but in 2013, he joined an opinion that said owners of private companies can object on religious grounds to a mandate in the Affordable Care Act that requires employers to provide coverage for birth control for women.

He also has written The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, a legal and ethical look at the topic, including an argument against their legalization.

Gorsuch’s mother, Anne Gorsuch Burford, was tapped by former President Ronald Reagan to be the first female head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

He lives near Boulder, Colorado, with his wife, Louise, and their two daughters.

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Democrats Denounce Trump Immigration Order as Unconstitutional

Congressional Democrats pushed back Tuesday against President Donald Trump, declaring his controversial executive order on immigration “unconstitutional,” just hours after he fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to enforce the ban.

Democrats, already outraged by the order temporarily limiting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, hailed Yates as “a patriot.” The former acting attorney general had told Department of Justice employees in written guidance that she did not think a defense of the order was legal. The surprise firing increased Democratic ire on both sides of the Hill, sparking partisan battles as many Republicans continued to defend the goals and the legality of the order.

The White House defended the president’s decision to fire Yates, saying she was “not only responsible but required to execute lawful orders.”

Press secretary Sean Spicer described Yates’ decision not to execute the order after it had gone through the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Compliance as “bewildering and defiant.”

But Democrats pointed to Yates’ firing as further proof the executive order would not stand up in court because of numerous alleged violations of the Constitution.

“The executive order discriminates by design. It’s wrong. I believe it is illegal,” Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Several federal courts have already found that President Trump’s order is very likely unconstitutional.”

Senate Democrats retaliated for Yates’ removal by derailing the expected confirmation of Trump’s attorney general nominee, Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, citing concerns that his closeness to Trump would impede his ability to make independent decisions in the role.

“The attorney general is the people’s attorney, not the president’s attorney,” Leahy said. “Ms. Yates’ willingness to defend the rule of law, instead of defending President Trump’s political whims, demonstrates exactly why having an independent attorney general is so important and why we have to be so careful in selecting our next attorney general.”

First lawsuits

Democrats lined up on the House floor Tuesday in an ultimately failed attempt to bring legislation rescinding the president’s executive order up for a vote.

Representative Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat who joined several others in introducing the legislation, said, “The president’s executive order of Friday violates the law, it violates the Constitution and it violates good sense.”

Lofgren argued that the order violates the law based on language in the Immigration and Nationality Act, which specifically prohibits nationality-based discrimination in the issuance of immigrant visas and other visas.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland took to the floor earlier in the day to argue that while the president has a duty to protect the nation, Congress is required to play a role in protecting the Constitution.

“This Congress has a sacred duty to hold the president accountable and ourselves, doing so in a way that respects our Constitution and our values,” Hoyer said.

The efforts on the House floor followed a Monday night rally of House and Senate Democrats on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, surrounded by hundreds of opponents of the ban who chanted to the lawmakers, “Do your job!”

“What the president did is not constitutional. Indeed, the view of many of us is it is immoral,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California told the crowd.

But Representative Raul Labrador, an Idaho Republican who has practiced immigration law, said, “The law specifically states that the president of the United States for national interest reasons can stop the entry of any immigrant or non-immigrants — the law’s actually really clear on that.”

Labrador told reporters he thought Yates’ decision lacked a legal basis.

“On her own, she decided this was illegal, and there is no case law out there that says it’s illegal,” he said.  

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin did not comment on the firing of Yates but told reporters Tuesday that the order was “something we support.” Ryan — who had strongly criticized candidate Trump’s proposal for a ban back in 2015, citing the cooperation of Muslims as a key element in combating terrorism — said he did not want to debate the order.

Upcoming lawsuits

The legality of the executive order will ultimately be tested in a longer-term battle fought in the courts.

“It’s a threat to our Constitution,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey told reporters Tuesday, announcing her state would be among the first to join a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Trump’s executive order.

According to Healey’s office, the order violates the equal protection guarantee of the Fifth Amendment by discriminating against people on the basis of their country of origin or religion without sufficient justification. The lawsuit also alleges violations of the Establishment Clause and the due process guarantee in the Fifth Amendment, among others, as reasons for the unconstitutionality of the order.

Healey was one of 17 Democratic state attorneys general to sign a letter pledging to work “to ensure the federal government obeys the Constitution, respects our history as a nation of immigrants, and does not unlawfully target anyone because of their national origin or faith.”

VOA’s Michael Bowman contributed to this report.

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From Catholic Schoolboy to Counselor-in-Chief: Steve Bannon’s Rise to Power

Donald Trump’s chief strategist has pledged to “hammer” mainstream Republicans and liberals, has taken on the capitalist elite who sparked the 2008 global economic crisis, and has called the news media the “opponent” of the Trump administration.

This week, the administration announced that Steve Bannon will also be a key member of the National Security Council — the White House team that oversees U.S. national security and foreign policy. The move sparked both praise and outrage — and, above all, renewed interest in who, exactly, this former banker is who wields so much influence in Washington.

Meteoric rise

Bannon was not immediately available for an interview with VOA. He was born in November 1953 to working-class parents in Norfolk, Virginia — “a blue-collar, Irish Catholic, pro-Kennedy, pro-union family of Democrats,” is how he once described his family.

His father, Martin, a telephone lineman, was hit hard by the 2008 economic crisis. Bannon has been a vocal critic of so-called “crony capitalists,” the wealthy bankers and traders who were not criminally prosecuted for their role in sparking the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

 

Bannon studied urban affairs at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. During the summer, according to the Boston Globe, he returned home to Richmond, where he worked in a local junkyard. Bannon went on to earn a graduate degree from Georgetown University and, finally, a master’s in Business Administration from Harvard University.

After seven years in the Navy as a surface warfare officer, Bannon served on a guided missile destroyer in the Persian Gulf and later as a special assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations in the Pentagon.

As a civilian, he has worked as an investment banker for Goldman Sachs and invested heavily in media, producing more than a dozen films in the 1990s. During that time, he struck a deal that gave him a small stake in the royalties of several television shows, including the popular sitcom Seinfeld which ended up making him millions of dollars.

Since 2000, he has written and directed nine documentaries, among them, the 2010 Battle for America, billed as “a searing look at the ongoing conflict between Constitutional Conservatives and an out-of-touch, arrogant, and ever-expanding central government.”

Another film, In the Face of Evil, is a 2004 documentary which claims to be relevant “as the 21st century’s great conflict between freedom and Islamic Fascism takes shape.”

WATCH: See the trailer for ‘In the Face of Evil’

 

In his own words

Bannon is perhaps best known for having served as the executive chairman of Breitbart News, a controversial conservative news site founded in 2008, which he took over after founder Andrew Breitbart died in 2012.

Bannon has described the news site as “the platform for the alt-right,” the alternative right wing, which rejects mainstream conservative politics.

Breitbart’s critics say the site promotes populists, nationalists, racists and xenophobes. U.S. Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called Bannon “a white nationalist.” Retired Senator Harry Reid called him a “champion of white supremacists.”

Bannon has rejected such talk. However, he himself, suggested in an interview in 2015 that there were too many executives of South Asian descent running Silicon Valley businesses. 

Bannon has admitted Breitbart promotes a nationalist message but denies being racist and xenophobic, and admits that Breitbart may appeal to those segments of the population.

“Look, are there some people that are white nationalists that are attracted to some of the philosophies of the alt-right? Maybe,” he told Mother Jones in 2016. “Are there some people that are anti-Semitic that are attracted? Maybe … some people are attracted to the alt-right that are homophobes, right? But that’s just like, there are certain elements of the progressive left and the hard left that attract certain elements.”

A ‘different calculus’

VOA spoke with Patrick M. McSweeney, an attorney and former chair of the Republican Party of Virginia, who is a longtime friend of the Bannon family. He says the accusations are completely unfounded. 

“Steve and I went to the same high school, which was the only high school that was integrated in the 1950s and ‘60s in Richmond,” McSweeney said. “And if you ever had a chance to meet his mother and father, you’d know exactly what I am saying. His mother, Doris, in particular, is among the least racially-biased people I know. And if anybody has a stamp on Steve, it’s Doris Bannon.”

McSweeney describes Bannon as bright, hard-headed and goal-oriented.

“Obviously,” he said, one who operates on a “different calculus.”

“Steve sees the immediate obstacle to reaching his objectives — and the president’s objectives — as being the media. And you’ll lose the force of the argument when you begin discriminating between outlets, so it tends to be a blanket condemnation of the media,” McSweeney said.

Bannon has criticized mainstream U.S. media outlets as being biased against Trump, referring to them as “the opposition.” In an interview with the New York Times last week, Bannon advised journalists to “keep their mouths shut” and just “listen for a while.”

“The paper of record for our beloved republic, the New York Times, should be absolutely ashamed and humiliated,” he told that paper, arguing that the Times reporters are out of touch with the millions of Americans who voted Trump into office.

Bannon and Trump have also been highly critical of the Washington Post, which in an editorial Sunday vowed not to fight with the new administration, but to wield “our pens and our laptops, our facts and our fairness.”

Role of religion

Bannon has been critical of the Catholic Church for its stance on immigration and last year berated Speaker of the House Paul Ryan for “social-justice Catholicism.”

That said, he is a loyal Catholic.

In the summer of 2014, Bannon, participated via Skype in a Vatican conference on poverty hosted by a conservative religious think tank seeking to promote “active participation of the Christian faith in the public square” — that is, as explained by its founder Benjamin Harnwell, promoting “pro-life, pro-traditional family” values.

“We’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict, of which if the people in this room, the people in the church, do not bind together and really form what I feel is an aspect of the church militant, to really be able to not just stand with our beliefs, but to fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting, that will completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years,” he told the conference.

Bannon also spoke of being part of a “global tea party movement,” a right-wing movement of middle-class, working people who say they are tired of being dictated to by a capitalist elite that treats them as mere economic commodities.

His message has been consistent for years: He has promised to “hammer” the left-wing and mainstream Republicans.

“The only way to take the country back from a left-wing establishment is to fight,” he told conservatives a few years ago, and it’s a battle that he warns won’t necessarily be about “sunshine and patriots.”

“It’s going to be people who want to fight,” he said.

In 2016, Bannon took a leave of absence from Breitbart in order to run Trump’s presidential campaign, and said he has had nothing to do with Breitbart since then.

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Undocumented US ‘Dreamers’ Still in Limbo

U.S. President Donald Trump has issued three executive orders that pertain to immigration in the past week. While that seems like it should be definitive, one important group of undocumented immigrants is still in limbo.  

At least 750,000 undocumented immigrants are still protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, signed by the previous administration. They are undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children — commonly known as “dreamers.”

But DACA expires in two years and after tumultuous days during which hundreds of visa holders have been denied entrance to the U.S., immigration proponents worry that the program is still on the table.

“At this point, I think we have to assume that everything that Trump said during his campaign, he’s going to try to fulfill because so far that’s what he has done … We have to be prepared,” Alma Couvorthie, senior director of community organizing at CASA de Maryland.

Although Trump’s day one promise was to end DACA, he told Time magazine in December that on this issue, at least, he is willing to “work something out.”

But a provision in one of his immigration executive orders may say otherwise.

Prepare for the worst

Trump’s executive order, Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, says the government cannot “faithfully execute the immigration laws of the United States if we exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.”

Which brings Couvorthie to urge lawyers, immigration advocates, and undocumented immigrants to “be ready, get prepared, know your rights, and get organized in local communities.” Couvorthie said the whole pro-immigration movement will “exhaust any avenue” to get relief either through the courts or Congress.

“We should not, for any minute, think that he’s going to care for our kids and the families who have benefited from this program and who are actually contributing greatly to this nation,” Couvorthie said.

Bargaining chip?

Proponents of tougher immigration laws and anti-immigration groups believe Trump should follow through with his promises to end deferred action.

Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, advocates for more restrictive immigration policies, has told VOA he expects some leeway when it comes to the dreamers.

“There’s no fundamental reason why one group of people should be allowed to break the law or others, but in the course of any kind of meaningful reform there’s going to be some kind of give and take,” Stein said, adding that DACA might be a place for some give.

Gingrich backs DACA

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, an informal adviser to Trump, told the Washington Post he is advising President Trump to keep DACA in place and “avoid a politically treacherous confrontation.”

“Why pick a fight over this group of people who have a lot of emotional stories to tell? It’s not realistic. It’s not practical,” Gingrich told the newspaper.

‘One of the lucky ones’

Thirty-year-old Maria Reyes, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico brought to the U.S. at 13, refuses to be scared.

“I’m one of the lucky ones because I am here. … These orders are actually bringing the community together. I’m confident this [DACA] is not going to change. Sometimes I worry, but I know I’m not alone,” Reyes told VOA.

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Criminal Justice Experts: NYC a Suitable Venue for ‘El Chapo’ Trial

On January 19, the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration as president, as the world set its eyes on Washington, the notorious drug lord of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel boarded a plane from Ciudad Juarez to New York in an unexpected and sudden extradition.

It was there that Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Loera, known as “El Chapo,” who had twice escaped maximum-security prisons in his own country, would meet his most formidable match to date: a highly successful federal court system and a 12-story prison just across the Brooklyn Bridge, known to many as “Little Guantanamo.”

While Guzman faces trial in multiple states besides New York — California, Texas, Illinois, Florida and New Hampshire — criminal justice experts believe the U.S. Justice Department’s choice of the Empire State reflects its confidence in its case against a man widely considered to be the world’s most powerful trafficker.

‘Very secure’ facilities

“New York is well-accustomed to trying high-notoriety defendants,” Paul Callan, a former homicide prosecutor and CNN legal analyst, told VOA. “We have very secure courtroom facilities, we have secure jail facilities, and New York is used to handling the press and the kind of coverage that takes place in these high-profile cases.”

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Callan added, lends itself to a demographically diverse and sophisticated jury.

“A jury that is familiar with drug dealers, a jury that is familiar with ‘snitch testimony,’ as they call it, and that is when somebody is testifying for the government who may be involved in criminology himself,” said Callan. “These jurors from Brooklyn have seen this all before.”

U.S. Attorney Robert Capers charged Guzman on 17 criminal counts that carry a mandatory minimum life sentence in prison. According to Capers, four among more than 200 tons of cocaine and heroin shipments attributable to Guzman were seized in the district alone; in all, seven-and-a-half tons were seized across the United States.

‘Little Guantanamo’

Following his arraignment, Guzman was transferred to the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC), a high-security facility near lower Manhattan’s financial district that has hosted notable high-profile criminals, including al-Qaida operatives and Bernard L. Madoff, operator of the largest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history.

Former New York Times investigative journalist Selwyn Raab, who spent his career covering criminal justice, has visited MCC many times. He considers its conditions to be among the most rigorous.

“Here, he’s going to be monitored 24 hours a day,” Raab said. “He’s not going to be able to go to the bathroom or take a shower or do anything without some eyes poking at him.”

In the high-security prison’s 42-year history, few have escaped. Still, residents who work or live in near the prison in Tribeca, one of the city’s most coveted white-collar neighborhoods, have mixed feelings about having Guzman there.

“It’s the cartel. If they want to get here, they’ll get here,” said Jean Young, a city employee from the area. “Thank God the federal building has a lot of checkpoints.”

Tribeca resident Luke Valente, on the other hand, considers Guzman’s New York destination a success.

Feeling of confidence

“I have a lot of faith in the professionals that are working here and in the U.S. in general,” Valente told VOA. “I think considering what he’s done in the past, in places outside the U.S., as far as being in custody, I feel that much more safe and confident that they’ll be able to see his sentence through.”

While his case is still pending, the public is unaware of whether El Chapo remains in MCC’s “10 South” — the prison’s highest-security wing. The Department of Justice declined to confirm his whereabouts to VOA for “safety and security reasons.”

Guzman’s next court appearance is scheduled for Friday. A judge suggested he appear via video conference, but his lawyers have demanded that he be physically present.

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Union-backed Ronald Vitiello Named to Head US Border Patrol

A longtime Border Patrol official who is backed by the agents’ union has been named chief of the agency, less than a week after his predecessor resigned under pressure.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced Tuesday on Twitter than Ronald Vitiello has been appointed to lead the agency at a time when President Donald Trump has pledged to erect a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico and add 5,000 agents from the current level of about 20,000.

The National Border Patrol Council – an early and outspoken backer of Donald Trump’s presidential bid – openly supported Vitiello for the job and pushed for the ouster of his predecessor, Mark Morgan, who resigned last week at the request of the new administration.

Morgan stepped down only seven months after being named the first outsider to run the agency since it was created in 1924.

Vitiello, who was most recently CBP’s executive assistant commissioner for operations support, was acting Border Patrol chief when Morgan was appointed last year and had been considered a leading contender for the job then.

He joined the Border Patrol more than 30 years ago and served as deputy chief in the administration of former President Barack Obama.

Brandon Judd, the union president, said in a recent interview that Morgan never had the support of agents.

“[Vitiello] and I do not see eye to eye on a great, great many things but we were always able to keep it respectful, always,” Judd said. “Morgan and I have not been able to do that.”

The appointment is not subject to Senate confirmation.

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US: Iranian Missile Launch ‘Absolutely Unacceptable’

Iran’s recent ballistic missile launch is “absolutely unacceptable” and the Trump administration will not turn a “blind eye” to such actions, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Tuesday.

Haley spoke briefly to reporters after attending her first meeting of the U.N. Security Council  a session Washington requested.

“We did call a meeting today to discuss what we know, which is we have confirmed that Iran did have a missile launch, a medium-sized missile launch testing on January 29, on Sunday,” she said. “That is absolutely unacceptable.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif would neither confirm nor deny the ballistic missile launch. However, he added, “The missiles aren’t part of the nuclear accords. Iran will never use missiles produced in Iran to attack any other country.”

Under U.N. Resolution 2231, which was adopted after the Iran nuclear deal was agreed among six world powers and Tehran in 2015, Iran was “called upon” not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles. But the resolution did not specifically demand it.

U.S. President Donald Trump has called the Iran nuclear deal “terrible,” and while campaigning had threatened to tear it up.

Have to back Resolution 2231

Haley, during her Senate confirmation hearing, characterized it as a “disappointment” that “created more of a threat,” but said she would focus on Iran’s compliance with its provisions.

“What we know for a fact is that Resolution 2231 basically said that they could not go forward with ballistic missile testing,” Haley said. “What we need them to know is that Security Council Resolution 2231 means something.” She said she told her 14 council counterparts that the resolution is only as good as its enforcement.

“So, what we are hearing from Iran is that they are being naive, saying ‘we have no intention of attacking any country.’ I will tell the people across the world that is something we should be alarmed about,” Haley added.

She said the United States is not naive. “You will see us call them out as we said we would, and you are also going to see us act accordingly.”

Limit Iran access to technology

Haley said the United States also will follow through to make sure prohibitions on supplying Iran with technology to do such launches would be respected.

“We have said with this administration that we are not going to show a blind eye to these things that happen,” Haley said. “We’re gonna act, we’re gonna be strong, we’re gonna be loud and we’re gonna do whatever it takes to protect the American people and the people across the world, because that’s what the goal is supposed to be.”

“There was very significant concern about the ballistic missile launch, which has now been confirmed,” Britain’s U.N. envoy Matthew Rycroft told reporters.

Launch called ‘inconsistent’

Rycroft said they have asked the committee that monitors implementation of Resolution 2231 to review the incident, and the council also has asked U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres to investigate and report back to them.

He said the January 29 launch is “inconsistent” with Resolution 2231, and he urged Iran to abide by all of its obligations. He urged Tehran to consider the regional repercussions of their actions.

“This is a step which is potentially destabilizing in an already unstable region,” Rycroft said.

Iran’s U.N. mission sent out a statement reiterating its foreign ministry position, saying, “Security Council Resolution 2231 does not prohibit legitimate and conventional missile activities. We reject politically motivated comments regarding Iran’s missile program.”

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Trump’s Firing of Cabinet Official Rare but Not Unprecedented

President Donald Trump’s decision Monday to fire an insubordinate acting attorney general was not unprecedented, but it is a rare occurrence in presidential history.

Since President Harry Truman began his first presidential term in 1945, only 35 presidential appointees have been fired, according to a report compiled by Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, and published by Politico.

Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, faced heavy pressure to fire Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius after her bungled rollout of the Affordable Care Act — known as Obamacare — and Attorney General Eric Holder after Holder was found in contempt of Congress for refusing to hand over documents related to the Fast and Furious gun-tracking scandal. Each time, Obama stood by his appointees. However, both Holder and Sebelius later resigned.

General Stanley McChrystal, whom Obama appointed to command U.S. troops in Afghanistan in 2008, was the highest-level appointee to be let go during Obama’s two terms. McChrystal was forced out in 2010 after making unflattering remarks about the Obama administration during an interview with Rolling Stone magazine.

He tendered his resignation June 23, the day after the story was published online, and Obama accepted the resignation later that day.

Media spectacle

Presidential historian Michael Beschloss told NPR that Cabinet-level officials are fired “extremely rarely,” and that modern presidents, especially, are reluctant to fire high-ranking officials because of the media spectacle it creates.

“You are probably going to have a situation in the future where presidents saddle themselves with people who should be fired, and they’re afraid to do it because they’re afraid it’s going to hurt them politically,” Beschloss said in 2013.

Beschloss cited President Jimmy Carter’s 1979 firing of four Cabinet secretaries as an example of why presidents are hesitant to fire top-level appointees, saying it contributed to Carter’s re-election loss to Ronald Reagan the following year.

“He wanted to show that he was changing the terms of his administration. It completely backfired,” Beschloss said. “His polls plunged.”

People saw it as a confession by Carter “that he was going down in flames,” Beschloss added.

Trump, however, gained wide popularity hosting a reality television show in which he coined the catch phrase “You’re fired,” and he has succeeded politically while bucking most political norms. He barely hesitated before firing Acting Attorney General Sally Yates on Monday, after she refused to enforce his executive order that suspends U.S. entry of all refugees for 120 days, bans Syrian refugees indefinitely, and blocks people from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Yemen and Somalia — all countries identified with jihadist violence — from entering the U.S. for three months.

A statement from the White House released after the firing said Yates’ actions had “betrayed the Department of Justice.”

“Ms. Yates is an Obama administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration,” the statement said.

Order’s legality questioned

Earlier Monday, Yates issued written guidance to Department of Justice employees saying they should not defend the order against legal challenges. While Yates noted in her letter the executive order had been reviewed and approved by the Office of Legal Counsel, she still questioned its legality and instructed DOJ employees to disregard it.

Trump replaced Yates with Dana Boente, a U.S. attorney from the state of Virginia, until the Senate confirms his pick for attorney general, Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, which is expected to happen this week.

Some of Trump’s political opponents criticized the decision, including leading Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York, who called it “chilling,” but Trump wasn’t the first president to fire a Cabinet secretary. From 1945 until the Trump firing, 12 presidents had fired 19 Cabinet agency heads, including Carter, who fired his secretaries of treasury, energy, transportation, and health, education and welfare, now known as health and human services.

According to the list compiled by Sabato, defense secretaries are the most likely Cabinet appointees to be fired, with Presidents Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush all getting rid of the Pentagon leaders. Truman, Ford and Bush all saw a drop in approval ratings after the firings.

Presidential approval ratings rose in only five instances after firing Cabinet appointees, Sabato wrote, but “all of the gains appear to be minor and short term.”

“Therefore, if the point of a sacking or a shuffle is to give the president a boost in the Gallup Poll, history suggests it isn’t going to work,” he wrote.  “It can easily be counterproductive, bringing to the public’s attention in a dramatic fashion that there is trouble afoot, serious enough to have cost someone his or her job.”

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US Sounds Warning Over Ukraine Clashes, Which Claim Top Separatist

The U.S. State Department is voicing “deep concern” about renewed fighting in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian rebels and government troops, saying the fighting near the Russian border has caused dozens of military and civilian casualties.

A statement Tuesday said the fighting, which erupted Sunday at the Promzona industrial park outside Avdiivka, near the rebel stronghold city of Donetsk, has left 17,000 civilians, including 2,500 children, without water, heat or electricity. It also called for an immediate cease-fire.

Hours earlier, the European Union called the fighting a “blatant violation” of the so-called 2015 “Minsk Protocols”—a truce negotiated with the help of German and French leaders that was designed to include the pullback of heavy weaponry from frontlines.

Since then, there have been reports of numerous truce violations, leading to several new negotiations and new cease-fires. The latest such deal was brokered in the Belarussian capital last August, after a spike in frontline firefights.

Both sides blame the other for the current violence, with Kyiv accusing rebels of using tanks and Grad multiple grenade launchers against government troops. Grad launchers were among the heavy caliber weapons that were to have been withdrawn from frontlines under the original deal.

For their part, rebel leaders in Donetsk, who have battled for autonomy from Kyiv since 2014, are reporting major damage to civilian infrastructure, in media dispatches that mirror the U.S. assessment released Tuesday.

Multiple Ukrainian and Russian news outlets are reporting that a top rebel deputy commander—Ivan Balakai, call sign “Greek,” of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR)—was killed by Ukrainian forces during intense fighting on Sunday.

“The situation in the area of Avdiivka greatly deteriorated,” said Ukrainian news site 112.ua. “[Pro-Russian] militants attempted to storm the industrial zone … and killed seven Ukrainian servicemen. [Ukrainian] forces managed to eliminate the commander of the DNR battalion with the call sign ‘Greek’ and to occupy strategically important positions. The fight for the city has continued for a third day.”

Speaking by video-chat from the frontlines near Avdiivka, Anastasia Stanko of the Kyiv-based Hromadske Internet television described the fighting as constant.

“It’s been ongoing since Sunday, it hasn’t stopped,” she told VOA’s Ukrainian Service. “But the fighting is localized. The thousands of people in Avdiivka are leading more or less normal lives. They don’t have water, they don’t have electricity and it’s 16 degrees Celsius, but they’re not totally evacuating, because the fighting is outside of town in the special industrial zone. People aren’t underground yet.”

Nearly 10,000 people—more than half of them civilians—have been killed in fighting that erupted in April 2014, a month after Russia unilaterally annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula, and two months after lengthy pro-Western protests in Kyiv forced Ukraine’s pro-Russian president into exile.

Moscow repeatedly has been accused of arming and supplying the rebel force, and in 2015 was accused of sending Russian forces across the border and into battle.

Russian President Vladimir Putin discounted those claims, saying any Russian troops found on Ukrainian soil were there as volunteers.

The 2014 annexation sparked widespread protests from Western governments and the United Nations and led to a series of crippling economic sanctions against Moscow by the West that remain in effect nearly three years later.

Ukraine has in recent weeks voiced increasing concern that international pressure on Moscow to end its support for rebels could weaken under the leadership of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly voiced support for a thaw in U.S.-Russian relations.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA’s Ukrainian Service.

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Batteries Ready to Power California Grid

Peak-hours demand for energy in Southern California will soon be covered by batteries instead of fossil-fuel-based power plants.

Thanks to the falling price of lithium-ion batteries, three battery manufacturing companies — Tesla, AES Corporation and Altagas Ltd. — are set to open huge energy storage plants in Southern California that, combined, amount to 15 percent of the battery storage installed around the world last year.

After a recent accident released thousands of tons of methane into the atmosphere, California power company Southern California Edison decided to replace some of its natural gas plants that provide additional energy during peak hours with batteries.

The batteries needed to store that amount of energy must be huge, or small but numerous — and in this case, numerous meant millions. But that did not discourage the battery companies, which built their plants in record time, within only six months.

Battery storage plants have numerous advantages. They are simpler to construct and operate, take up less space than plants burning fossil fuel, don’t pollute and respond more quickly to spikes in energy demand.

However, analysts say in order for battery plants to be profitable, the total price of an installed project will have to fall from the current $500 per kilowatt hour to less than $275.

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Questions About Turkish Military’s Syrian Incursion Grow

A video of hundreds of Turkish-trained Syrian police chanting “God is great — long live Erdogan” at their graduation this month has raised new questions about Turkey’s long-term goals in Syria.

The police are set to deploy to Syrian towns recently captured from Islamic State during a Turkish military incursion into Syria launched in August.

The video led observers to wonder where the newly trained Syrian police place their loyalty — with Syria or Turkey, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. That adds to the growing questions about the ultimate goal of Operation Euphrates Shield, Turkey’s military incursion into Syria.

“Turkey’s armed forces’ stay in Syria will be for the long term, as it was in northern Iraq since the early ’90s,” said Aydin Selcen, former senior Turkish diplomat who has served widely across the region. He noted Turkey’s military has been in Northern Cyprus since the middle of the 1970s.

Turkish exit

“I do not see how and when the Turkish armed forces will be able to leave, to extricate themselves,” Selcen said. “It is not in the Turkish army’s tradition to die for a cause and then relinquish it to another.”

Turkish forces have lost more than 40 soldiers in Syria, most battling to capture the town of al-Bab. Speculation about Turkish intentions is increasingly focused on the town.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus ruled out returning the town to Damascus, saying it would go back to the Syrian people. Meanwhile, Turkish forces are continuing to try to oust Islamic State from the strategically important town, which is the gateway to Raqqa, the jihadists’ self-declared capital.

Russia may also be concerned about Turkish intentions.

“You cannot be an ally of Moscow and move beyond its wish,” former diplomat Selcen said.

Moscow appears already to be making its intentions clear, with reports of Russian jets intervening on behalf of Syrian government forces advancing toward al-Bab. Analysts warn a military showdown could be looming.

“The Russians have cleared the path on the southern part of the city for the Syrian army to take it,” said Soli Ozel, an international relations expert with Istanbul’s Kadir Has University. “If the Syrian military is advancing against al-Bab from the south and [the] Turkish military from the north and the east, I think there can be a confrontation if both of them try to enter the city center. …  At the end of the day, it is Syrian territory.”

PYD seeks al-Bab

Experts point out control of al-Bab is key to Ankara’s bid to thwart Syrian Kurdish ambitions. The Syrian Kurdish forces of the PYD are seeking to control the town, which would open the door for them to a connection with the last remaining isolated Kurdish canton of Afrin.

That is a red line for Ankara, which accuses the PYD of secessionist aspirations and being allied to the PKK, which is fighting the Turkish state.

If Syrian government forces capture al-Bab, it could open the door to the PYD.

“If al-Bab is taken over by the Syrian forces, are they going to keep it for themselves or are they going to leave it to the PYD, like they did in Qamishli and Hasaki at the beginning of the civil war in 2011?” Selcen asked.

The battle for control of al-Bab symbolizes the increasingly difficult situation Ankara is facing in Syria. According to international relations expert Ozel, Ankara has a difficult hand to play.

“At the end of the day, unless Turkey wishes to remain an occupying power in the north of Syria, I don’t see how they can keep al-Bab, if the Syria government wants its own territory back,” Ozel said.  “It will be very, very complicated, and I am not convinced at all Turkey has the upper hand on this.”

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Trump Presidency Thus Far? Russia, for One, Is Pleased

Russians have largely greeted Donald Trump’s ascendancy to the White House with high hopes for a new era of improved relations with the United States. And judging by this week’s reaction, the first telephone call between Presidents Trump and Putin has done nothing to diminish those expectations.

 

In his influential weekly news program Vesti Nedeli, anchor Dmitry Kiselev praised the 45-minute conversation as the “most awaited phone call on Earth.”

 

“Donald Trump is fulfilling his election promises and getting rid of Obama’s pathetic legacy,” Kiselev said during the broadcast.

 

Kremlin officials have been more circumspect, if only slightly.  

 

On Monday, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the conversation as “constructive” with both men showing a desire to resolve “complex issues through dialogue.”

 

Peskov said such cooperation was not possible under the Obama administration, with whom the Kremlin sparred bitterly over Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, military support for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, and allegations of interference in the U.S. presidential election, among other issues.

 

Indeed, following the phone call, statements from both the Kremlin and White House stressed a desire to find common ground.

 

Sanctions relief?

 

The Kremlin said the leaders expressed an interest in closer cooperation in fighting Islamic State terrorists, as well as dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Iran nuclear deal, and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. There was no indication that the presidents discussed the charges that Russia tried to interfere with the U.S. election.

 

Nor do the two appear to have discussed Western sanctions over Russia’s actions in Ukraine, although the tone of the call fed into speculation that they could soon be eased.  

 

Key European allies – in line with the former Obama administration – have proposed partially lifting the sanctions only if Moscow fulfills its obligations under the Minsk Peace Accords aimed at ending the fighting in east Ukraine between Kyiv government forces and pro-Russian separatists.  

 

President Trump has suggested he could lift sanctions in exchange for a reduction in Russia’s nuclear arsenal or a commitment to fight the Islamic State.

 

In his press call Monday, Kremlin spokesman Peskov insisted sanctions were not raised during the Trump-Putin call.

 

A shift in tone

 

But many observers pointed hopefully to a Kremlin statement that the two leaders expressed a desire improve “economic cooperation.”

 

“To fully develop economic ties, it’s necessary to create the right climate and legal conditions,” said Russian lawmaker Dmitri Novikov in comments reported by the Interfax news agency.  “That requires canceling sanctions.”

 

Kremlin allies also contrasted the apparently warm rapport between Trump and Putin to the Russian president’s frosty relationships with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francoise Hollande.

Indeed, some argued that the budding Trump-Putin friendship had the potential to shake traditional U.S. allies to the core.

 

“Kyiv, Vilnius, Riga, Tallinn, Warsaw, Oslo, Stockholm, NATO – they’re all horrified by the results of the Putin-Trump call,” crowed Alexey Pushkov, a Russian lawmaker and former head of the Duma’s Foreign Affairs committee in a post to Twitter.

Hacking charges

 

Yet hovering over any budding detente are the accusations the Kremlin meddled in the U.S. election with the aim of helping Trump win the White House.

 

So, too, are unsubstantiated claims the Kremlin possesses compromising sexual material on Trump from a visit to Moscow in 2013.

 

A U.S. investigation also is continuing into whether there were improper contacts between the Trump campaign team and Russian officials during the election campaign.

 

Moscow has repeatedly denied the hacking charges, and angrily dismissed related allegations as attempts to sabotage a new era in U.S.-Russian relations.

 

Still, the hacking scandal gained new intrigue with recent Russian news reports that two intelligence officers from the FSB’s cybersecurity unit were among six Russian nationals arrested and charged with treason.

According to sources quoted by the Interfax news agency, those arrested are suspected of providing information to the CIA – raising questions of its possible connections to the U.S. investigation into Russian hacking.

Kremlin officials have yet to comment.

 

Who is playing whom?

 

Warranted or not, the hacking scandal has made the Trump team sensitive to charges it is beholden to Moscow.  

 

Some Russia analysts point to the White House’s decision to release photos of Trump on the phone with Putin surrounded by Vice President Mike Pence and other advisors as a sign of the administration’s concerns over the optics of Russian rapprochement.

 

But Russian political analyst Feodor Krashenninkov argues the “Trump as Putin’s puppet” theory is overblown.  

 

In an interview with VOA, Krashenninkov noted that Trump’s actions are hemmed in by Republican lawmakers who favor a hardline approach to Russia.

 

“Putin – by contrast – can give away anything,” says Krashenninkov, who noted – in a twist – that it is Putin who would be more likely to embrace the title of Trump’s bestseller, The Art of the Deal.

 

Krashenninkov argued that Trump, in his introductory conversation with the Russian leader, borrowed from another book of American tycoon lore:  Dale Carnegie’s 1936 classic How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Wherever U.S.-Russian relations head next, some in Moscow were reveling in the domestic controversy arising during Trump’s first week in office – including mass protests against the administration’s decision to temporarily ban admission to the United States of all refugees and most citizens of seven Middle Eastern countries.

 

Maxim Shevchenko, a pro-Kremlin journalist, urged his government to enjoy – if not stoke – the chaos.

“Trump is a symbol of the deep, insurmountable and not easily defined confrontation of the societal, political, and economic split in America… therefore, greetings Trump!’  Shevchenko wrote in a post to his Facebook account.

 

“The more chaos, anger, and confrontation they have the better.”

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Trump Presidency Thus Far? Russia, for One, Is Pleased

Russians have largely greeted Donald Trump’s ascendancy to the White House with high hopes for a new era of improved relations with the United States. And judging by this week’s reaction, the first telephone call between Presidents Trump and Putin has done nothing to diminish those expectations.

 

In his influential weekly news program Vesti Nedeli, anchor Dmitry Kiselev praised the 45-minute conversation as the “most awaited phone call on Earth.”

 

“Donald Trump is fulfilling his election promises and getting rid of Obama’s pathetic legacy,” Kiselev said during the broadcast.

 

Kremlin officials have been more circumspect, if only slightly.  

 

On Monday, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the conversation as “constructive” with both men showing a desire to resolve “complex issues through dialogue.”

 

Peskov said such cooperation was not possible under the Obama administration, with whom the Kremlin sparred bitterly over Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, military support for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, and allegations of interference in the U.S. presidential election, among other issues.

 

Indeed, following the phone call, statements from both the Kremlin and White House stressed a desire to find common ground.

 

Sanctions relief?

 

The Kremlin said the leaders expressed an interest in closer cooperation in fighting Islamic State terrorists, as well as dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Iran nuclear deal, and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. There was no indication that the presidents discussed the charges that Russia tried to interfere with the U.S. election.

 

Nor do the two appear to have discussed Western sanctions over Russia’s actions in Ukraine, although the tone of the call fed into speculation that they could soon be eased.  

 

Key European allies – in line with the former Obama administration – have proposed partially lifting the sanctions only if Moscow fulfills its obligations under the Minsk Peace Accords aimed at ending the fighting in east Ukraine between Kyiv government forces and pro-Russian separatists.  

 

President Trump has suggested he could lift sanctions in exchange for a reduction in Russia’s nuclear arsenal or a commitment to fight the Islamic State.

 

In his press call Monday, Kremlin spokesman Peskov insisted sanctions were not raised during the Trump-Putin call.

 

A shift in tone

 

But many observers pointed hopefully to a Kremlin statement that the two leaders expressed a desire improve “economic cooperation.”

 

“To fully develop economic ties, it’s necessary to create the right climate and legal conditions,” said Russian lawmaker Dmitri Novikov in comments reported by the Interfax news agency.  “That requires canceling sanctions.”

 

Kremlin allies also contrasted the apparently warm rapport between Trump and Putin to the Russian president’s frosty relationships with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francoise Hollande.

Indeed, some argued that the budding Trump-Putin friendship had the potential to shake traditional U.S. allies to the core.

 

“Kyiv, Vilnius, Riga, Tallinn, Warsaw, Oslo, Stockholm, NATO – they’re all horrified by the results of the Putin-Trump call,” crowed Alexey Pushkov, a Russian lawmaker and former head of the Duma’s Foreign Affairs committee in a post to Twitter.

Hacking charges

 

Yet hovering over any budding detente are the accusations the Kremlin meddled in the U.S. election with the aim of helping Trump win the White House.

 

So, too, are unsubstantiated claims the Kremlin possesses compromising sexual material on Trump from a visit to Moscow in 2013.

 

A U.S. investigation also is continuing into whether there were improper contacts between the Trump campaign team and Russian officials during the election campaign.

 

Moscow has repeatedly denied the hacking charges, and angrily dismissed related allegations as attempts to sabotage a new era in U.S.-Russian relations.

 

Still, the hacking scandal gained new intrigue with recent Russian news reports that two intelligence officers from the FSB’s cybersecurity unit were among six Russian nationals arrested and charged with treason.

According to sources quoted by the Interfax news agency, those arrested are suspected of providing information to the CIA – raising questions of its possible connections to the U.S. investigation into Russian hacking.

Kremlin officials have yet to comment.

 

Who is playing whom?

 

Warranted or not, the hacking scandal has made the Trump team sensitive to charges it is beholden to Moscow.  

 

Some Russia analysts point to the White House’s decision to release photos of Trump on the phone with Putin surrounded by Vice President Mike Pence and other advisors as a sign of the administration’s concerns over the optics of Russian rapprochement.

 

But Russian political analyst Feodor Krashenninkov argues the “Trump as Putin’s puppet” theory is overblown.  

 

In an interview with VOA, Krashenninkov noted that Trump’s actions are hemmed in by Republican lawmakers who favor a hardline approach to Russia.

 

“Putin – by contrast – can give away anything,” says Krashenninkov, who noted – in a twist – that it is Putin who would be more likely to embrace the title of Trump’s bestseller, The Art of the Deal.

 

Krashenninkov argued that Trump, in his introductory conversation with the Russian leader, borrowed from another book of American tycoon lore:  Dale Carnegie’s 1936 classic How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Wherever U.S.-Russian relations head next, some in Moscow were reveling in the domestic controversy arising during Trump’s first week in office – including mass protests against the administration’s decision to temporarily ban admission to the United States of all refugees and most citizens of seven Middle Eastern countries.

 

Maxim Shevchenko, a pro-Kremlin journalist, urged his government to enjoy – if not stoke – the chaos.

“Trump is a symbol of the deep, insurmountable and not easily defined confrontation of the societal, political, and economic split in America… therefore, greetings Trump!’  Shevchenko wrote in a post to his Facebook account.

 

“The more chaos, anger, and confrontation they have the better.”

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