Category: USA

news from USA

New AMC Drama Follows Japanese American Internment Horror

The second season of an AMC-TV drama series follows the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and a number of bizarre deaths haunting a community.

“The Terror: Infamy” is set to premiere Monday and stars Derek Mio and original “Star Trek” cast member George Takei as they navigate the forced internment and supernatural spirits that surround them.

It’s the first television series depicting the internment of Japanese Americans on such a massive scale and camps were recreated with detail to illustrate the conditions and racism internees faced.

The show’s new season is part of the Ridley Scott-produced anthology series.

Mio, who is fourth-generation Japanese American and plays Chester Nakayama, said he liked the idea of adding a supernatural element to a historical event such as Japanese American internment. He says he had relatives who lived on Terminal Island outside of Los Angeles and were taken to camps.

Residents there were some of the first forced into internment camps after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

“If you add the supernatural element, it’s a little more accessible and now it’s like a mainstream subject and it can open up more discussion about what really happened and what’s going on right now,” Mio said.

It was a role personal to him as well. “It’s not just another kind of acting job for me,” Mio said. “I really do feel a responsibility to tell this story that my ancestors actually went through.”

From 1942 to 1945, more than 110,000 Japanese Americans were ordered to camps in California, Colorado, Idaho, Arizona, Wyoming, Utah, Texas, Arkansas, New Mexico and other sites.

Executive Order 9066, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, forced Japanese Americans, regardless of loyalty or citizenship, to leave the West Coast and other areas for the camps surrounded by barbed wire and military police. Half of those detainees were children.

Takei, who was interned in a camp as a child, said he was impressed with the show’s research into recreating the camp.

“The barracks reminded me again – mentally, I was able to go back to my childhood. That’s exactly the way it was,” Takei said. “So for me, it was both fulfilling to raise the awareness to this extent of the terror. But also to make the storytelling that much more compelling.”

The series also involves others who are connected to historic World War II events. Josef Kubota Wladyka, one of the show’s directors, had a grandfather who was in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb dropped and managed to survive.

Max Borenstein, one of the show’s executive producers who lost relatives at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, said the show’s horror genre still doesn’t compare to the horror of the internment camp.

“It was important to do the research, the lived reality that people faced,” Borenstein said. “The fact of taking people who are citizens of the country and (putting them in camps) is a great stain of our country.”

Co-creator Alexander Woo, who is Chinese American, said he believes the series is especially relevant now given the debate over immigration in the U.S. and Europe.

“The struggle that immigrants go through of embracing a country that doesn’t embrace you back is a story, unfortunately, that keeps repeating,” Woo said. “There’s going to be some people who likely didn’t know of the internment. There will be some people who had relatives in camps. We have a responsibility to be accurate.”

your ad here

Source: Jeffrey Epstein has Died by Suicide in Jail

Updated Aug. 10, 2019, 10:15a.m.

Financier Jeffrey Epstein died by suicide while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges in New York, a former law enforcement official said Saturday.

He was found in his cell at the Manhattan Correctional Center Saturday morning, according to the officials, who was briefed on the matter but spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss it publicly. The medical examiner’s office in Manhattan confirmed Epstein’s death.

Epstein’s arrest last month launched separate investigations into how authorities handled his case initially when similar charges were first brought against him in Florida more than a decade ago. U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta resigned last month after coming under fire for overseeing that deal when he was U.S. attorney in Miami.

The 66-year-old had pleaded not guilty and was facing up to 45 years in prison if convicted.

A little over two weeks, Epstein was found on the floor of his jail cell with bruises on his neck early, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity. At the time, it was not clear whether the injuries were self-inflicted or from an assault.

Epstein’s arrest drew national attention, particularly focusing on a deal that allowed Epstein to plead guilty in 2008 to soliciting a minor for prostitution in Florida and avoid more serious federal charges.

Federal prosecutors in New York reopened the probe after investigative reporting by The Miami Herald stirred outrage over that plea bargain.

But his lawyers maintained that the new charges brought by federal prosecutors in New York were covered by the deal and were improper.

They said he hasn’t had any illicit contact with underage girls since serving his 13-month sentence in Florida.

Before his legal troubles, Epstein led a life of extraordinary luxury that drew powerful people into his orbit.

He socialized with princes and presidents and lived on a 100-acre private island in the Caribbean and one of the biggest mansions in New York. A college dropout, he became a sought-after benefactor of professors and scientists, donating millions of dollars in donations to Harvard University and other causes.

Still, it was never entirely clear how the middle-class Brooklyn math whiz became a Wall Street master of high finance.

your ad here

Islamic State Working to Make US Military’s Fears Come True

In the 4½ months since U.S.-backed forces declared victory over the Islamic State terror group’s last shred of territory in Syria, there has been a steady drumbeat of doubt.

One by one, military leaders, diplomats and experts began raising concerns, aiming to convince policymakers that for all of the success in rolling back IS’s self-declared caliphate, the group was far from dead.

“This is not the end of the fight,” U.S. Special Representative for Syria Ambassador James Jeffrey warned, just days after the victory celebrations in Syria in late March.

“That will go on,” he said. “It is a different type of fight.”

FILE – Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, center, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, U.S. Special Representative for Syria Engagement James Jeffrey, and Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, at Esenboga Airport in Ankara, Oct. 17, 2018.

A series of new reports, citing intelligence from United Nations member states, the U.S. military and other sources, now indicate it is a fight that IS is increasingly well-positioned to win.

“As long as it can gain revenue, it will remain a danger,” the Rand Corp. declared Thursday in “Return and Expand?” a report on the terror group’s finances and prospects following the collapse of its caliphate.

IS assets

The Rand report estimates IS had perhaps in excess of $400 million in assets by early 2019.

Intelligence from U.N. member states, included in another recent report, indicates even after the fall of the caliphate, IS may still have up to $300 million at its disposal.

But even if the actual figure is lower, there are no indications that efforts to defeat IS has left the terror group wanting.

“It still has certainly more than enough money to survive for quite a while,” Rand senior economist Howard Shatz, one of the authors of the Rand report, told VOA.

“It’s a cash organization. Its expenses had to match its revenues,” he said. “We haven’t seen evidence of drawing from reserves or expenses outstripping revenues.”

And despite repeated strikes targeting senior IS leaders in Syria and Iraq, the group’s infrastructure and financial leadership has remained solid.

“It is possible to lower their level of effort, to lower their competency,” Shatz said. “But if there’s any let up, they do have people who are in the organization, come up through the organization, and take over.”

“Some of those people will be better. Some of those people will be worse. But the people are there,” he said.

Estimated number of fighters

The best U.S. estimates indicate an IS pool of anywhere from 14,000 to 18,000 so-called members across Syria and Iraq, many of whom are thought to be fighters.

While many of those fighters have gone underground, others remain active, targeting key community leaders in Syria and Iraq for assassinations, and burning crops to create turmoil.

Officials with Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led military operation to counter IS, also warn the terror group has solidified in capabilities, enhancing its command and control and logistics infrastructure in Iraq.

Military and diplomatic officials say IS also has retained support in rural parts of Iraq, especially in areas extending south of Mosul all the way to Baghdad, the capital.

In Syria, where military officials describe IS as “resurgent,” the group is using large displaced persons camps, like the one at al-Hol, to its advantage.

Despite efforts by U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces to provide security for al-Hol, coalition officials warned the U.S. Defense Department inspector general that thousands of IS supporters have been able to spread the group’s ideology “uncontested.”

“We have been clear that there is work left to do,” Pentagon spokesman Commander Sean Robertson said.

“ISIS has prepared its resources to operate underground,” he said, adding that in the face of the terror groups’ resurgence, “we continue to work with allies and partners to enable stabilization efforts.”

FILE – The chief of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, purportedly appears for the first time in five years in a propaganda video in an undisclosed location, in this undated TV grab taken from video released April 29 by Al-Furqan media.

In some ways, this is what U.S. military officials have been worried about since last year, when the Pentagon warned that despite mounting territorial losses, IS was “well-positioned to rebuild and work on enabling its physical caliphate to re-emerge.”

According to a recent U.N. report, rebuilding efforts would still seem to include key IS leaders, including the group’s self-declared caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

“This process is more advanced in Iraq, where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and most of the [IS] leadership are now based,” the report said, a conclusion supported by some Western intelligence officials.

Key leaders survived

The U.N. said other key leaders have also survived “elsewhere in the former ‘caliphate’ area and parts of the immediate neighborhood,” though the report admits communication remains difficult.

The U.S.-led coalition has, at times, described the terror group’s current strategy as “strategic patience.”

“While their leadership hides for the sake of self-preservation, some groups of fighters have been attempting to create safe havens,” the coalition told VOA in a statement.

Still, there is persistent concern that even as IS seeks to regain its relevance on the battlefield, it is finding success in using social media to recreate the perception it is as relevant as ever.

This past April, al-Baghdadi was able to deliver his first video speech since he was shown giving a sermon in July 2014 at the al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul, Iraq.

“Jihad continues until judgment day,” al-Baghdadi said, urging IS followers to fight on.

FILE -  This image made from video posted on a militant website July 5, 2014, purports to show the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, delivering a sermon at a mosque in Iraq.
IS Claims Video Shows Reclusive Leader, Calls for Revenge

The Islamic State issued a new video Monday claiming to show its reclusive leader delivering a message to his followers, urging them to seek revenge for the fall of the terror group’s self-declared caliphate In Iraq and Syria.

The more than 18-minute-long video posted to the internet by IS’s al-Furqan media division shows a man, allegedly Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, sitting cross-legged against a white backdrop with a machine gun and a couple of pillows by his side. 

The man is seen speaking with other IS members, whose faces are blurred or covered with masks, acknowledging the recent fall of the

In the past few months, IS has also ramped up its video messaging, showing fighters from Africa, East Asia, the Caucuses and elsewhere renewing their pledge of allegiance to al-Baghdadi.

“The so-called ISIS caliphate has been destroyed,” State Department Counterterrorism Coordinator Nathan Sales said while briefing reporters earlier this month. “But the ISIS brand lives on around the world.”

Researchers, though, fear IS has one more card to play as the group seeks to reassert itself — its detailed record-keeping for the areas it once ruled.

“We know during the time of the caliphate, the Islamic State was recording financial details about individuals living in its territory,” said Shatz, the Rand economist.

“I don’t think that information goes away,” he said, adding when the time is right, the group knows whom to squeeze. “There are a lot of people now who are known to the Islamic State who the Islamic State could come to and try to get money from.”

your ad here

US Envoy Tells Germany: Spend More on Defense or We Move Troops to Poland

An envoy of U.S. President Donald Trump suggested on Friday that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s unwillingness to boost defense spending might give the United States no choice but to move American troops stationed in Germany to Poland.

The comments by Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, signal Trump’s impatience with Merkel’s failure to raise defense spending to 2% of economic output as mandated by the NATO military alliance.

“It is offensive to assume that the U.S. taxpayers continue to pay for more than 50,000 Americans in Germany but the Germans get to spend their [budget] surplus on domestic programs,” Grenell told the dpa news agency.

Germany’s fiscal plans foresee the defense budget of NATO’s second-largest member rising to 1.37% of output next year before falling to 1.24% in 2023.

FILE – U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump greet U.S. troops at Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany, Dec. 27, 2018.

Eastern European countries like Poland and Latvia, fearful of Russia after it annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, have raised their military spending to the 2% target, drawing praise from Trump who wants Germany to do the same.

Deteriorating relations

U.S. complaints about Germany’s defense spending pre-date Trump but relations with the United States have deteriorated since he became president.

The two allies do not see eye-to-eye on a range of issues, including Iran, trade tariffs and the NordStream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany.

Trump said in June he would deploy 1,000 U.S. troops from Germany to Poland, which sees the measure as deterrence against possible aggression from Russia.

Georgette Mosbacher, U.S. ambassador to Poland, has made a similar criticism of Germany’s reluctance to commit more financial resources to NATO.

“Poland meets its 2% of GDP spending obligation towards NATO. Germany does not. We would welcome American troops in Germany to come to Poland,” she wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

U.S. troops

The United States has more than 33,000 soldiers in Germany and an additional 17,000 U.S. civilian employees to support them. It is believed the United States also has nuclear warheads in Germany.

“President Trump is right and Georgette Mosbacher is right,” Grenell told dpa. “Multiple presidents have asked Europe’s largest economy to pay for its own defense. This request has been made over many years and by many presidents.”

Grenell added that the United States must react if Germany continues to ignore Trump’s demand to boost defense spending.

Trump travels to France this month for the G-7 summit, where Iran will be a major topic. Trump will also visit Poland and Denmark.

Grenell earlier this month criticized Germany for showing reluctance to join a planned U.S. naval mission in the Strait of Hormuz, close to Iran.

your ad here

Trump Administration Moves to Limit State Powers to Block Pipelines

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Friday unveiled a proposal that would curb state powers to block pipelines and other energy projects, as part of the Trump administration’s effort to boost domestic oil, gas and coal development.

The move, swiftly criticized by an organization representing progressive states, comes four months after President Donald Trump ordered the EPA to change a section of the U.S. Clean Water Act that states like New York and Washington have used in recent years to delay pipelines and terminals.

“When implemented, this proposal will streamline the process for constructing new energy infrastructure projects that are good for American families, American workers, and the American economy,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a press release announcing the move.

The EPA’s proposal is centered on changes to Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, which allows states and tribes to block energy projects on environmental grounds, it said.

David Hayes, director of the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center, part of the New York University Law School, which coordinates policy with state attorneys general, said the proposal runs counter to the Trump administration’s promises to support so-called “cooperative federalism” in which states are given broad authority to decide policy.

“The Trump administration gives lip service to ‘cooperative federalism,’ but it practices ‘fair-weather federalism,” he said. “It’s a hypocritical double standard.”

your ad here

US Mayors Call for New Gun Control Measures

More than 200 U.S. mayors demanded Thursday that the Senate return from its summer recess to approve gun control legislation in the aftermath of two mass shootings last weekend that killed 31 people in Texas and Ohio.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors, representing 214 cities with both Republican and Democratic leaders, told Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic leader Chuck Schumer that it was urgent for the Senate to approve the measures already passed by the House of Representatives in February.

That legislation calls for background checks for all gun purchasers and would extend the waiting period for gun transactions from three to 10 days when instant checks raise questions about would-be buyers.

Schumer has also urged Senate approval, but McConnell has blocked a vote because he opposes the measures.

“Already in 2019, there have been over 250 mass shootings,” the mayors said in a letter to the lawmakers. They said the “tragic events” in the U.S.-Mexican border city of El Paso, Texas, and Midwest city of Dayton, Ohio, “are just the latest reminders that our nation can no longer wait for our federal government to take the actions necessary to prevent people who should not have access to firearms from being able to purchase them.”

U.S. President Donald Trump, who visited Wednesday with survivors of the two shootings, first responders and health care workers in both Dayton and El Paso, said there is a “great appetite for background checks.” But he also voiced the same sentiment a year ago after 17 students and teachers were gunned down at a Florida high school before backing off in the face of opposition by the country’s top gun lobby, the National Rifle Association.

President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Aug. 7, 2019.

The NRA voiced its opposition to Trump again this week, The Washington Post reported, and told the U.S. leader that background checks would not be popular among his core base of political supporters, many of them gun owners in the country’s heartland.

Trump also supports “red flag” legislation that would allow local authorities across the U.S., after a judicial review, to confiscate guns of those believed to be a danger to themselves or others. But the U.S. leader said he sees “no political appetite” for a ban on the sale of assault weapons like those the gunmen deployed in the country’s latest carnage.

Trump largely stayed out of public sight during the visits to Dayton and El Paso, where some supporters gathered on the streets, but protesters also carried signs attacking his anti-immigrant views and lack of action on gun control.

In Dayton, police killed the attacker, a 24-year-old community college student, within 30 seconds of the start of his barrage of 41 shots with an assault rifle that killed nine, including his sister, and wounded 27. In El Paso, authorities have charged a 21-year-old man with targeting Hispanics in a hail of gunfire that killed 22 and injured two dozen.

Trump critics say his rhetoric against migrants helped foment the El Paso massacre. But he has dismissed the attacks, while criticizing those who have disparaged his immigration views.

The U.S. leader suggested that Beto O’Rourke, a former congressman from El Paso who has often attacked Trump as he seeks the Democratic presidential nomination to run against him in 2020, “should respect the victims & law enforcement – & be quiet!”

Beto (phony name to indicate Hispanic heritage) O’Rourke, who is embarrassed by my last visit to the Great State of Texas, where I trounced him, and is now even more embarrassed by polling at 1% in the Democrat Primary, should respect the victims & law enforcement – & be quiet!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 7, 2019

While Trump visited with survivors at an El Paso hospital, video footage shows him comparing the size of the crowd he drew at a rally in the city in February compared to a gathering where O’Rourke appeared the same night.

“That was some crowd,” Trump said of his event. “We had twice the number outside. And then you had this crazy Beto. Beto had like 400 people in a parking lot, and they said his crowd was wonderful.”

 

your ad here

Woman Cited as Example of Unfair Sentencing Released From Tennesee Prison

A Tennessee woman upheld as an example of unfair sentencing was released from prison Wednesday morning. Cyntoia Brown was over a decade into a life sentence for killing a man as a 16-year-old. She said she was a sex trafficking victim at the time.

Support from prominent celebrities including Rihanna and Kim Kardashian West thrust Brown’s case into the national conversation in 2017, with millions of social media users calling for her release with the viral hashtag #FreeCyntoiaBrown.

In 2004, Brown killed Tennessee real estate agent Johnny Allen, then 43, with a shot to the back of the head. Prosecutors argued the murder was motivated by robbery, because Brown stole Allen’s wallet and two guns when she fled, according to court documents.

Brown testified she thought Allen was reaching for a gun from the case under his bed, so she shot him with a gun from her handbag.

Now 31, Brown said she was trafficked by an abusive pimp known as “Cut Throat,” who forced her into sex work after she ran away from her adoptive family.

Brown was tried as an adult and convicted of first degree murder and aggravated assault two years later, and handed down a life sentence with no possibility of parole until 2055.

Tennessee’s outgoing Republican governor, Bill Haslam, granted Brown clemency in January. She had served 15 years of the sentence.

FILE – Cyntoia Brown appears in court during her clemency hearing at the Tennessee Prison for Women in Nashville, Tenn., May 23, 2018. (Lacy Atkins/The Tennessean)

Brown will be on supervised parole for the next decade, provided she sticks to her post-prison release plan, holds a job or continues studying, attends counseling consistently and participates in community service, according to a statement by the Tennessee Department of Correction.

While in prison, Brown earned her GED, equivalent to a high school diploma, and an associate degree through Lipscomb University.

“I look forward to using my experiences to help other women and girls suffering abuse and exploitation,” said Brown in a statement.

Brown has said she will release a book in mid-October, while a new documentary will premiere this year.

your ad here

Turkey, US Agree to Form Joint Operation Center for Syria Safe Zone

Turkey and the United States said they agreed on Wednesday to establish a joint operation center in Turkey to coordinate and manage a planned safe zone in northern Syria.

After three days of talks in Ankara, the two countries said the safe zone on Syria’s northeast border with Turkey should be a “peace corridor,” and that every effort would be made so that Syrians displaced by war can return to their country.

The agreement was announced in separate statements issued by Turkey’s Defense Ministry and the U.S. Embassy in Ankara.

Neither statement said whether they had overcome two main points that had divided Washington and Ankara: how far the proposed safe zone should extend into Syria, and who would command forces patrolling the area.

Turkey’s lira strengthened after the announcement, which followed warnings from Turkey that it could launch unilateral military action in northern Syria if Ankara and Washington failed to reach agreement on the safe zone. The lira stood at 5.478 at 1413 GMT, up nearly 1% on the day.

Turkey and the United States, allies in NATO, have been deadlocked for months over the scope and command of the zone, given the presence of Kurdish YPG militia that fought alongside U.S. forces against Islamic State militants, but which Ankara sees as terrorists who pose a grave security threat.

Ankara has accused Washington of stalling on setting up the safe zone, which would extend hundreds of kilometers along Syria’s northeastern border, and has demanded that the United States sever its ties with the YPG.

Defense Minister Hulusi Akar had said earlier that the United States was shifting closer to Ankara’s views on the proposed safe zone, adding that Turkey’s plans for a military deployment there are complete.

“Our plans, preparations, the deployment of our units in the field are all complete. But we said we wanted to act together with our friend and ally, the United States,” state-owned Anadolu Agency quoted him as saying.

Imminent Incursion

Washington has proposed a two-tiered safe zone, with a 5-kilometer demilitarized strip bolstered by an additional 9 km cleared of heavy weapons – stretching in total less than half the distance into Syria that Turkey is seeking.

Turkey has also said it must have ultimate authority over the zone, another point of divergence with the United States.

Three Turkish officials who spoke to Reuters this week had expressed impatience that the talks have yet to yield results, and warned that Ankara was ready to act on its own.

Turkey has twice sent forces into northern Syria in the last three years, citing security concerns caused by Syria’s eight-year-long civil war, and President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday a third incursion was imminent, targeting YPG-controlled territory east of the Euphrates river.

U.S. President Donald Trump announced last year that U.S. forces would leave Syria and began an initial withdrawal, a decision applauded by Ankara, and the two NATO allies agreed to create the safe zone.
On Tuesday, a U.S. Defense Department report warned about a revival of Islamic State in Syria’s northeast, saying U.S.-backed Kurdish groups were not equipped to handle the resurgent jihadist cells without U.S. support.

“The partial [U.S.] drawdown [has] occurred at a time when these fighters need additional training and equipping to build trust with local communities and to develop the human-based intelligence necessary to confront resurgent [Islamic State] cells and insurgent capabilities in Syria,” the report said.

 

your ad here

Boeing CEO Still Expects 737 MAX to be Cleared to Fly This Year

Boeing’s chief executive reaffirmed Wednesday he expects the 737 MAX will be cleared to return to the skies this year, but reiterated the company could further cut production in case of regulatory delays.

Dennis Muilenburg said Boeing planned to submit its certification package to the US Federal Aviation Administration around September, with expected approval around a month later. The planes have been grounded since mid-March following two crashes that claimed 346 lives.

Photo shows a Boeing Center in Crystal City, Arlington, Virginia. (Photo: Diaa Bekheet)

But Boeing could trim cut or even halt production on the MAX if the approval process with civil regulatory authorities drags out much longer.

“Those are not decisions we would make lightly,” he said at a New York investment conference.

A halt to the MAX would affect “600-some suppliers, hundreds of thousands of jobs,” he added.

While the company is “very focused” on the aircraft returning to service “early in the fourth quarter,” Muilenburg said, “I think it also behooves us to make sure we are doing disciplined contingency management and trying to be transparent on this.”

Boeing has been working closely with the FAA and other bodies on a software fix to address a problem with a flight handling system tied to both the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes.

But the FAA in June identified problems with microprocessor which extended the timeframe. Muilenburg warned during an earnings conference call last month that “there’s always some risk of new items” until the process is complete.

The airline and the US regulator have faced stiff criticism from pilots and others over the way the MAX was approved to fly, which seemed to allow Boeing to self-certify many of the systems, as well as the response to the deadly crashes.

In addition, the FAA did not ground the plane after the first crash in October 2018.

Muilenburg said the company was in close contact with airlines about compensation for canceled flights and delayed aircraft deliveries and over strategies to reassure the public once the planes are given the green light to fly.

“We know that it will take some time to rebuild public confidence,” he said.

 

your ad here

Bolton: New Sanctions Allow US to Target Supporters of Venezuelan Government

U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said one day after the U.S. placed a full economic embargo against Venezuela the U.S. can now sanction anyone who supports the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order Monday to freeze all Venezuelan government assets in the U.S. — the toughest sanctions on Maduro’s government so far.

In a speech Tuesday in Lima, Peru at a summit on Venezuela, Bolton said the U.S. is “sending a signal to third parties that want to do business with the Maduro regime: proceed with extreme caution. There is no need to risk your business interests with the United States for the purposes of profiting from a corrupt and dying regime.”

Bolton called on world leaders at the International Conference on Democracy in Venezuela to take tougher action to oust Maduro, whom he accused pretending to negotiate in good faith in order to buy time.

“The time for dialog is over. Now is the time for action,” Bolton said. “Maduro is at the end of rope.”

Bolton also touted the success of previous economic embargoes in Panama and Nicaragua and denounced China’s and Russia’s support for Maduro.

“We say again to Russia, and especially to those who control its finances: Do not double down on on a bad bet. To China, which is already desperate to recoup its financial losses, the quickest route to getting repaid is to support a new legitimate government.”

The Venezuelan government responded to the new sanctions Tuesday, describing them as a “grave aggression” that will lead to “the failure of political dialog.”

Maduro’s government also said the economic embargo is meant to “formalize the criminal economic, financial and commercial blockade” of Venezuela and “strangle” its population.

The head of Russia’s upper house international affairs committee, Konstantin Kosachev, said the U.S. action amounts to “international banditry” and represents an “open meddling into Venezuela’s international affairs.”

With the tougher sanctions, Venezuela joins Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Syria as the only other countries under a similar full U.S. embargo.

The U.S. has been increasing the economic and diplomatic pressure on Maduro, who has refused to give up power despite a popular uprising against his authoritarian government.

Trump said last week he is considering a blockade or quarantine of Venezuela. He gave no details of such plans but has always said military action in Venezuela remains on the table.

Russia and Cuba have already sent forces to Venezuela in support of Maduro.

The U.S. was the first of about 50 countries to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as the legitimate president of Venezuela, after he used his constitutional power as National Assembly leader to declare Maduro’s presidency illegitimate.

Guaido claimed Maduro’s re-election last year was fraudulent. He led a popular uprising against Maduro earlier this year.

The collapse in world energy prices, corruption and failed socialist policies have wrecked oil-rich Venezuela’s economy and millions have fled the country amid severe shortages of fuel, quality medical care and many food staples.

your ad here

Can Turkey Be a Trusted NATO Partner?

Can Turkey be reeled back in as a trusted NATO partner? A growing chorus of policy-makers and foreign-policy analysts fear it can’t.

The threat this week by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to launch a military incursion into Kurdish-majority areas in northern Syria is setting the stage for yet another fierce dispute between Ankara and the rest of NATO — including the U.S., which partnered with Syrian Kurds to rout the Islamic State terror group.

Erdogan’s warming ties with Russia’s Vladimir Putin and his purchase of an advanced Russian air-defense system — as well as his pursuit of strategies in Syria that conflict with those of other NATO partners and his support for Islamist causes— are straining Turkey’s ties with the West to the point of rupture, say analysts.

Pentagon officials also have expressed frustration with signs of an Erdogan rapprochement with Iran.

FILE – Presidents Hassan Rouhani of Iran, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Vladimir Putin of Russia hold a joint news conference after their meeting in Ankara, Turkey, April 4, 2018.

The crisis in Turkish-NATO relations is now as grave as in 1974, when Turkey invaded the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. There’s no formal mechanism for a NATO member to be expelled from the defense organization. Nonetheless, in Washington and European capitals, talk is mounting among policy-makers and influential foreign-policy analysts about whether Turkey has any future in NATO and whether the time is coming for it to leave or for its membership to be suspended.

“It’s time to throw Turkey out of NATO,” opined British newspaper columnist Con Coughlin, a commentator who often reflects the views of Britain’s intelligence establishment.

Last month, European Union foreign ministers suspended about $164 million in aid to Turkey and shelved talks on an aviation accord in retaliation for Turkish drilling and gas exploration in the waters off Cyprus. The island has been partitioned since 1974 between the ethnically Greek south and ethnically Turkish north.

The administration of northern Cyprus is recognized only by Ankara. The EU foreign ministers also asked the European Investment Bank to review lending to the country, which amounted to nearly $434 million in 2018.

The EU measures came just days after the first shipments arrived in Turkey of a Russian-made surface-to-air missile system to Turkey.

FILE – First parts of a Russian S-400 missile defense system are unloaded from a Russian plane near Ankara, Turkey, July 12, 2019.

President Erdogan shrugged off Washington’s warnings that it would penalize Turkey for the purchase and went ahead with deal anyway. U.S. defense chiefs say the S-400 system the Turks bought is not compatible with NATO defenses and poses a potential threat to U.S. F-35 stealth fighter. Responding to the delivery of the Russian system, U.S. President Donald Trump said he would withhold sales of advanced F-35 jets to Turkey, but refrained from further sanctions.

Erdogan said Tuesday that he is confident Trump won’t allow ties between the two NATO allies to become captive to the dispute over Ankara’s purchase of the S-400 defense system. Speaking to Turkish ambassadors gathered in Ankara, Erdogan said he remained committed to NATO.

“There is no concrete evidence showing the S-400s will harm the F-35s or NATO, nobody should deceive each other. Many NATO member states have purchased from Russia. We don’t see this being turned into a crisis,” Erdogan said. “Turkey made a business decision for its security.”

Analysts say Erdogan is banking on Western leaders having to balance their disapproval of his foreign-policy steps, as well as their disdain for his increasingly authoritarian actions domestically, with their need for Turkish assistance to curtail migration and for help with counter-terrorism. But they say Erdogan risks miscalculating and that the host of serious issues now straining Turkey’s ties with the West is nearing the point of rupture.

An incursion into Kurdish areas of northern Syria would add considerably to the strains.

FILE – Turkish troops head to the Syrian border, in Karkamis, Turkey, Aug. 27, 2016.

The crisis has long been in the making. Since 2013 Erdogan has pulled against NATO and the West. He was indignant over the refusal by the U.S. and the EU to condemn the toppling by the Egyptian army of Egypt’s elected President Mohamed Morsi, an Islamist, and scolded the West for perceived double standards. He accused Israel of playing a role in Morsi’s ouster.

He turned increasingly cool to the idea of Turkey joining the European economic bloc, something the country has aspired to for half-a-century despite repeated rebuffs from some key European states including Germany. His chief negotiator with the EU said Turkey would likely never join, blaming the “prejudiced” attitudes of current EU members, and sneering the EU is in a “process of dissolution” anyhow.

In a Brookings Institution report last year, analyst Amanda Sloat noted the West has a “Turkey conundrum.” While it wanted Turkey to remain a NATO member, partly because it occupies an important geo-strategic space, “the country’s president is growing more authoritarian, using virulent anti-Western rhetoric, and making foreign policy choices contrary to the interests of the trans-Atlantic alliance,” she noted.

Erdogan, analysts and Western diplomats say, has proven himself in the past as master-manipulator of the West, astutely knowing when to pull back and when to shrug off Western warnings, betting that what Turkey has to offer the West, including the important NATO air-base at Incirlik in the south of the country, would persuade the U.S. and Europeans to overlook his warming ties with Russia.

FILE – Turkish soldiers carry a huge national flag and a portrait of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey, during a military parade in Ankara, Turkey, Aug. 30, 2015.

But how long can that continue? Doug Bandow, an analyst with the Cato Institute, a Washington think tank, noted this week that “the only serious potential security threat to Europe today is from Russia. Yet Turkey cannot be trusted to take NATO’s side in a conflict.” He argues NATO has little choice but to suspend Turkey’s membership, as Ankara’s foreign policy now diverges so greatly from that of the Western states. “In practice, Turkey has already been ‘lost’ to the alliance,” he argues.

 

 

your ad here

Can Turkey Be a Trusted NATO Partner?

Can Turkey be reeled back in as a trusted NATO partner? A growing chorus of policy-makers and foreign-policy analysts fear it can’t.

The threat this week by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to launch a military incursion into Kurdish-majority areas in northern Syria is setting the stage for yet another fierce dispute between Ankara and the rest of NATO — including the U.S., which partnered with Syrian Kurds to rout the Islamic State terror group.

Erdogan’s warming ties with Russia’s Vladimir Putin and his purchase of an advanced Russian air-defense system — as well as his pursuit of strategies in Syria that conflict with those of other NATO partners and his support for Islamist causes— are straining Turkey’s ties with the West to the point of rupture, say analysts.

Pentagon officials also have expressed frustration with signs of an Erdogan rapprochement with Iran.

FILE – Presidents Hassan Rouhani of Iran, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Vladimir Putin of Russia hold a joint news conference after their meeting in Ankara, Turkey, April 4, 2018.

The crisis in Turkish-NATO relations is now as grave as in 1974, when Turkey invaded the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. There’s no formal mechanism for a NATO member to be expelled from the defense organization. Nonetheless, in Washington and European capitals, talk is mounting among policy-makers and influential foreign-policy analysts about whether Turkey has any future in NATO and whether the time is coming for it to leave or for its membership to be suspended.

“It’s time to throw Turkey out of NATO,” opined British newspaper columnist Con Coughlin, a commentator who often reflects the views of Britain’s intelligence establishment.

Last month, European Union foreign ministers suspended about $164 million in aid to Turkey and shelved talks on an aviation accord in retaliation for Turkish drilling and gas exploration in the waters off Cyprus. The island has been partitioned since 1974 between the ethnically Greek south and ethnically Turkish north.

The administration of northern Cyprus is recognized only by Ankara. The EU foreign ministers also asked the European Investment Bank to review lending to the country, which amounted to nearly $434 million in 2018.

The EU measures came just days after the first shipments arrived in Turkey of a Russian-made surface-to-air missile system to Turkey.

FILE – First parts of a Russian S-400 missile defense system are unloaded from a Russian plane near Ankara, Turkey, July 12, 2019.

President Erdogan shrugged off Washington’s warnings that it would penalize Turkey for the purchase and went ahead with deal anyway. U.S. defense chiefs say the S-400 system the Turks bought is not compatible with NATO defenses and poses a potential threat to U.S. F-35 stealth fighter. Responding to the delivery of the Russian system, U.S. President Donald Trump said he would withhold sales of advanced F-35 jets to Turkey, but refrained from further sanctions.

Erdogan said Tuesday that he is confident Trump won’t allow ties between the two NATO allies to become captive to the dispute over Ankara’s purchase of the S-400 defense system. Speaking to Turkish ambassadors gathered in Ankara, Erdogan said he remained committed to NATO.

“There is no concrete evidence showing the S-400s will harm the F-35s or NATO, nobody should deceive each other. Many NATO member states have purchased from Russia. We don’t see this being turned into a crisis,” Erdogan said. “Turkey made a business decision for its security.”

Analysts say Erdogan is banking on Western leaders having to balance their disapproval of his foreign-policy steps, as well as their disdain for his increasingly authoritarian actions domestically, with their need for Turkish assistance to curtail migration and for help with counter-terrorism. But they say Erdogan risks miscalculating and that the host of serious issues now straining Turkey’s ties with the West is nearing the point of rupture.

An incursion into Kurdish areas of northern Syria would add considerably to the strains.

FILE – Turkish troops head to the Syrian border, in Karkamis, Turkey, Aug. 27, 2016.

The crisis has long been in the making. Since 2013 Erdogan has pulled against NATO and the West. He was indignant over the refusal by the U.S. and the EU to condemn the toppling by the Egyptian army of Egypt’s elected President Mohamed Morsi, an Islamist, and scolded the West for perceived double standards. He accused Israel of playing a role in Morsi’s ouster.

He turned increasingly cool to the idea of Turkey joining the European economic bloc, something the country has aspired to for half-a-century despite repeated rebuffs from some key European states including Germany. His chief negotiator with the EU said Turkey would likely never join, blaming the “prejudiced” attitudes of current EU members, and sneering the EU is in a “process of dissolution” anyhow.

In a Brookings Institution report last year, analyst Amanda Sloat noted the West has a “Turkey conundrum.” While it wanted Turkey to remain a NATO member, partly because it occupies an important geo-strategic space, “the country’s president is growing more authoritarian, using virulent anti-Western rhetoric, and making foreign policy choices contrary to the interests of the trans-Atlantic alliance,” she noted.

Erdogan, analysts and Western diplomats say, has proven himself in the past as master-manipulator of the West, astutely knowing when to pull back and when to shrug off Western warnings, betting that what Turkey has to offer the West, including the important NATO air-base at Incirlik in the south of the country, would persuade the U.S. and Europeans to overlook his warming ties with Russia.

FILE – Turkish soldiers carry a huge national flag and a portrait of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey, during a military parade in Ankara, Turkey, Aug. 30, 2015.

But how long can that continue? Doug Bandow, an analyst with the Cato Institute, a Washington think tank, noted this week that “the only serious potential security threat to Europe today is from Russia. Yet Turkey cannot be trusted to take NATO’s side in a conflict.” He argues NATO has little choice but to suspend Turkey’s membership, as Ankara’s foreign policy now diverges so greatly from that of the Western states. “In practice, Turkey has already been ‘lost’ to the alliance,” he argues.

 

 

your ad here