Philippines The Next ISIS Strong Hold?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) The Philippines military has unleashed a series of air strikes in a push to regain full control of a largely Muslim city that was overrun last week by ISIS-affiliated fighters.

More than a hundred residents of Marawi, on the southern island of Mindanao, have died and 70,000 have fled the town of 200,000 since fighters from the Maute Islamist militant group entered the city and clashed with military and police.
“Precision airstrikes are (being) judiciously used to prevent collateral damage and employed at specific targets of resistance to protect our troops and hasten clearing of the city of terrorist elements who continue to resist,” military spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said Tuesday, according to the official Philippine News Agency.
The siege on Marawi unfolded as Muslims worldwide began to mark the holy month of Ramadan. Mindanao has a significant Muslim population, though the Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country.
The Maute militants set fire to churches and other buildings as they entered the city, flying the flag of the so-called Islamic State to which they pledged allegiance last year.
Sporadic gunfire erupted throughout the day as helicopters flew over the city, a witness told CNN.
Families last week packed belongings into cars and sat in long lines of traffic as they sought to escape the ISIS-backed fighters, residents told CNN at the time.
Parts of neighboring Iligan city are on lockdown, with a nighttime curfew, to prevent fighters from moving in, according to a statement posted on the city’s official Facebook page.

Fighting ongoing

Reports suggested the Maute fighters were defending Isnilon Hapilon, a longstanding terrorist leader designated by ISIS as the group’s emir for Southeast Asia, after he was cornered by Philippines police and military forces.

Filipino soldiers engage in a firefight with ISIS-linked militants on May 30, 2017, in Marawi in the southern Philippines.

Militants’ ongoing resistance suggested Hapilon, who has a $5 million FBI bounty on his head, was still in the city, the Philippines military said.
More than 80 militants had been killed since fighting began, while 17 soldiers and three police officers had died, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Joar Herrara told CNN.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte suggested over the weekend that he would be open to tapping nationalist rebel groups, which recently signed peace deals with the government, as reinforcements in the fight against ISIS.
Duterte declared martial law over the island of Mindanao last week after the crisis began.
“If this martial law lasts and you want to help us fight for the republic, … I will use you as soldiers, with the same pay, privileges, and I will build houses for you,” Duterte said in a message to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front.

ISIS emir for Southeast Asia Isnilon Hapilon has a $5 million bounty on his head from the FBI.

Hostages escape

Militants had executed more than a dozen people, and numerous others had been taken hostage, the Department of National Defense said.

Duterte considers martial law across Philippines

Duterte considers martial law across Philippines
During government airstrikes Monday against Maute group positions, 11 hostages fled a building and swam across a river to reach government troops on the other side, they told CNN Philippines. One man died trying to escape.
The surviving hostages said they had seen one of their companions beheaded in front of them and were warned they would meet the same fate if the government did not meet the group’s demands.

Martial law

Duterte has suggested he might extend martial law until the end of the year or impose it nationwide, a possibility that has alarmed critics of the government and survivors of the dictatorship of President Ferdinand Marcos.
The country’s constitution permits only a 60-day declaration of martial law; any extension must be approved by lawmakers.
On Tuesday, 15 of 23 senators signed a resolution expressing support for Duterte’s existing declaration.
The resolution said the Maute group had committed acts which constitute “the crime of rebellion” and added that imposing martial law on the region was “satisfactory, constitutional and in accordance with the law.”

Kathy Griffin Channels Her Inner ISIS

JONATHAN TURLEY

kathygriffintweet

As some on this blog know, I have never been a fan of comedian Kathy Griffin.  I have found her crude humor to be juvenile and never understood why CNN and Anderson Cooper continued to use her during New Year’s Eve programming.   As I previously stated, Griffin often seems to substitute an increasingly obvious lack of comedic talent with a rising level of obscenity.  Now, she was shocked even many of her enablers with a picture holding the bloody severed head of President Donald Trump.  Griffin clearly must have known that a firestorm would result for the disgusting and deeply disturbing image.  That buzz however seems to be turning into a buzz saw as even her former supporters are expressing outrage at the image.

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Ukraine raids Russian internet search engine company as part of ‘treason’ probe

Source: Ukraine raids Russian internet search engine company as part of ‘treason’ probe

We Have Been Duped: Obama Care Is Not Raising Our Insurance, Republicans Are

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT)

You’ve Been Duped

The Affordable Care Act isn’t raising your premiums. Republicans are.

You’ve Been Duped

By J. Mario Molina | Opinion Contributor

May 30, 2017, at 11:20 a.m.

As I watch the debate unfold over repeal of the Affordable Care Act, I keep thinking about the Hans Christian Anderson story “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” In the story, the emperor’s weavers convince him that they have made him clothes of special cloth, invisible to those too stupid to appreciate their beauty. The emperor parades through town stark naked, and his subjects are too afraid to state the obvious until one little boy blurts out that the emperor has no clothes. The emperor looks down and realizes the boy is right.

You might guess that President Donald Trump is the emperor in my metaphor, but you’d be wrong. The emperor is the American public, who has been duped into believing that the Affordable Care Act is failing, even as Republicans work behind the scenes to destroy it.

And who is the little boy in this story? I am. I am the former CEO of a health insurance company, and I have been warning publicly what will happen if Trump continues to effectively sabotage the Affordable Care Act. Earlier this month, I lost my job.

When Trump ran for president, he promised reforms to ensure there would be health insurance for everyone and that it would be a “lot less expensive” than under President Barack Obama’s health care law. We have yet to see the plan he described during his campaign. Instead, earlier this month, House Republicans passed the American Health Care Act – a bill the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office determined would cause 23 million Americans to lose health insurance coverage.


CARTOON GALLERY
Editorial cartoon on President Donald Trump and health care
Editorial cartoon on Trumpcare
Editorial cartoon on Republicans and health care
Editorial cartoon on Republican Party and health care and Obamacare
Editorial cartoon on Republicans and health care
Editorial cartoon on Paul Ryan and health care and Medicaid
Editorial cartoon on Paul Ryan and health care
Editorial cartoon on Republicans and health care and pre-existing conditions
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Editorial cartoon on House Republicans and health care and the Senate
Editorial cartoon on President Donald Trump and House Republicans and Obamacare
Editorial cartoon on House Republicans and health care
Editorial cartoon on Jimmy Kimmel and health care and President Donald Trump
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PHIL HANDS/TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY


When confronted with the dire projections about how their bill will make insurance unaffordable for their constituents, most of the representatives who voted for the bill often echo a line that Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price and Trump have used repeatedly: that the Affordable Care Act is in a so-called “death spiral” that will inevitably “explode,” so they need to pass a bill, no matter how terrible, before it does. That narrative is patently false. In fact, most of the instability driving up premiums in the marketplace can be directly traced to Republicans’ efforts to undermine the health care law for their own political purposes.

What CBO Estimates Say About the House Health Bill
Bloomberg

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, for example, was among the first to land a blow. In 2014, he proudly led a successful effort to cut funding for the “risk corridors” program. Rubio called the payments made from these funds a “bailout” for insurers, but in fact the program was an integral backstop to help control premiums as insurance companies in the marketplaces adjusted to the new population they were covering. The consequence of that ploy to score political points was that some insurers left the marketplace, and many Americans’ premiums went up.

Since Trump took office in January, these kinds of sneak attacks on the law have accelerated. During the final week of the open enrollment period, when consumers can sign up for a marketplace health care plan or choose a new one, Trump officials within the Department of Health and Human Services decided to cancel advertising and outreach for the HealthCare.gov website. That decision came despite the fact that it is well documented that younger, healthier enrollees tend to sign up at the last minute. It was a transparent effort to damage the stability of the health insurance marketplace and to create the illusion that demand for insurance was decreasing.


RELATED CONTENT

They Passed It, and Now We Know What’s In It

CBO had a lot of bad news about the health care bill House Republicans already voted for.


Perhaps the most drastic way that the Trump administration is sabotaging American’s health insurance is by refusing to commit to reimbursing health plans for the cost-sharing reduction payments they make to lower out-of-pocket costs for their lowest income members. Insurance companies are currently in the process of determining their rates for the 2018 plan year, and without a guarantee from the administration that they will receive the payments they are owed, they will factor that added cost into their premiums for next year. And you don’t have to take my word for it – the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that insurers would need to raise premiums for silver-level plans by an average of 19 percent to compensate if the administration will not commit to making the cost-sharing reduction payments.

One common thread in all these efforts is that Americans who purchase their health coverage through the individual market are the ones harmed, not insurance companies. The administration and Republicans in Congress want you to believe that insurers raising premiums for their plans or exiting the marketplaces all together are consequences of the design of the Affordable Care Act instead of the direct results of their own actions to sabotage the law. Don’t let them fool you.

If you think Obamacare is failing, I have one simple message for you: Open your eyes and stop being the emperor.

Democrat strikes back over healthcare
Reuters

Tags: health care, health care reform, American Health Care Act, Affordable Care Act, Republican Party

J. Mario Molina OPINION CONTRIBUTOR

J. Mario Molina, M.D., is the former CEO of Molina Healthcare, one of the largest health insurance companies serving Medicaid and Marketplace programs. He has three decades of experience caring for low-income patients.

Germans perplexed as Trump escalates feud: Trump keeps Proving His Ignorance To The World

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Germans perplexed as Trump escalates feud

May 30 at 5:20 PM
President Trump escalated his feud with Berlin on Tuesday, even as Germany’s leader and Trump’s own spokesman tried to defuse the conflict, which has sent tremors through Washington’s core postwar alliances.Before the presidential tweets began flying early Tuesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel reaffirmed the importance of Germany’s ties to the United States. But she pointedly did not back down from earlier comments about Europe’s need to rely on itself rather than its friends.

The dispute started as Trump sped through meetings in Europe last week and appeared to leave a trail of bruises in his wake. It heated up after Merkel did little over the weekend to hide her disappointment with Trump’s refusal to commit Washington to the climate change treaty. And it was further inflamed Tuesday at 6:40 a.m. Washington time when Trump fired a white-hot shot straight at Berlin’s glass-and-concrete chancellery.

“We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military. Very bad for U.S. This will change,” Trump wrote in his early-morning tweet.

The fight has had few obvious practical consequences so far. But Merkel’s meetings this week — first a chummy meeting with India’s leader on Tuesday and then a sit-down with the Chinese prime minister on Wednesday — were bracing reminders of the trade ties being forged outside the United States as Washington moves toward a sharply more nationalist and protectionist agenda.

Play Video 1:15
White House says Trump and Merkel’s relationship is ‘fairly unbelievable’
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that President Trump and German chancellor Angela Merkel “get along very well,” during a press briefing on May 30, and said her comments about increased European independence are “what the president called for.”(Reuters)

Merkel refused to give ground Tuesday, even as she sought to ease the dispute with a rhetorical hug.

“Transatlantic relations are of paramount importance,” Merkel said alongside Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Berlin. “What I did was merely to point out that in light of the present situation, there are yet more reasons that we have to take our destiny in Europe into our own hands.”

The Modi meeting was planned long before the dust-up with Trump. But the cheerful body language between the two leaders was difficult to miss.

“We are meant for each other,” Modi said to Merkel, smiling widely, as both leaders made positive comments about a European Union-India trade deal in the works.

German officials — who say that the United States remains Germany’s most important international ally and an important partner whose friendship they want to maintain — feel that Trump has prioritized relations with authoritarian nations such as Saudi Arabia instead of democratic allies. Many were shocked when Trump declared in Riyadh that “we are not here to lecture” the mostly unelected assembled leaders — and then blasted European allies in Brussels for not spending enough on defense.

That led Merkel to conclude that she needs to advocate a sharply more pro-European agenda at home ahead of September elections, one ally said. She said Sunday at a beer-hall political rally that Europe can no longer fully rely on others, a message clearly about Washington, even if it was aimed largely at her own voters.

“It was mostly to say we have to strengthen Europe. It was not anti-Trump,” said Norbert Röttgen, a close Merkel ally who is the chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the lower house of Germany’s Parliament.

“You have to explain to your voters what we make of the experience of the last days,” Röttgen said. “Trump, he is an unprecedented president. He calls into question by the way of his behavior, by what he is saying, by what he is not saying, the foundation of this alliance, and you have to give an answer to that. And the answer of the chancellor is that we have to bring into this alliance, not against this alliance, but into this alliance, a stronger German hand.”

With Germany’s elections drawing closer, Merkel has been forced to turn her attention to her own voters — most of whom loathe Trump and staunchly oppose increasing defense spending, one of his key demands. She is seeking a fourth term in office and has rejected most of Trump’s criticisms as baseless.

Even before Trump’s victory last year, Merkel was increasing defense spending, pushing up the budget by $27 billion over the next three years. That would almost double current levels — but it would still be dwarfed by the $664 billion the United States spends every year.

Now Merkel needs to convince German voters that defense increases are in their own interest, rather than a response to Trump. In a preview of election-season arguments, leading Social Democrats said Monday that Merkel should have openly opposed Trump from the start rather than trying to work with him at first.

“Merkel needs to put some distance between herself and Trump, who is exceptionally unpopular in Germany,” said Marcel Dirsus, a political scientist at the University of Kiel in northern Germany.

But there are practical limits to any German split from Washington, Dirsus said. Germany is not militarily independent and is far from becoming so. And the United States remains an important trade partner.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday that there was no dispute between Trump and Merkel.

“I think the relationship that the president has had with Merkel he would describe as fairly unbelievable,” Spicer said.

But Europeans are growing weary of the message gap between Trump and the rest of his circle. They are still searching for which side to give greater weight — and last week’s trip tipped the balance toward the president.

“Europeans think they are now being treated worse by Trump than countries like Russia or Saudi Arabia,” said Stephan Bierling, an expert on transatlantic relations at the University of Regensburg in Germany.

The bilateral strains mean that the United States has, to some extent, lost the trust of one of Europe’s most pro-American leaders. The German chancellor, the most powerful politician in Europe, grew up in East Germany, and her upbringing there has long been credited for her staunch support for closer European-U.S. ties.

“Given her experience with the Cold War, Merkel has long upheld and defended American ideals. But the belief in shared values has been shattered by the Trump administration,” Bierling said.

Noack reported from Berlin.

Lebanon: Wants To Ban New Wonder Woman Movie Because Lead Actress Is Israeli: Childish, Ignorant, Stupidity

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS AGENCY)

Lebanon Wants to Ban Wonder Woman Because Lead Actor Gal Gadot Is Israeli

5-30-2017

(BEIRUT) — Lebanon is seeking to ban the new “Wonder Woman” movie because its lead actress, Gal Gadot, is an Israeli — a reflection of how the decades-old animosity between the two neighbors is also infused in the cultural scene.

A security official said a formal request for a ban has not yet been received.

A ban would require a recommendation from a six-member committee from the Ministry of Economy, a process that has not yet began, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

A premiere of “Wonder Woman” is scheduled for Wednesday in at least one cinema in Beirut. Posters of the movie and digital billboards have sprouted up around the Lebanese capital.

Lebanon is officially at war with Israel and has a decades-old law that boycotts Israeli products and bars Lebanese citizens from traveling or having contacts with Israelis. The two countries have been through a number of wars, including a particularly devastating one in 2006 that battered Lebanon’s infrastructure and left hundreds dead.

A group called Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel-Lebanon has pressed an effort against the movie. On its Facebook page, the campaign said Gadot was a soldier in the Israeli army and has expressed support for Israel’s military policies against the Gaza Strip, a coastal Palestinian territory run by the militant group Hamas.

“The state took the right decision,” Samah Idriss, a member of the boycott campaign told The Associated Press. “We now await the implementation. … Even if it is one hour before the show, they should ban it anyway.”

Tensions have been rising between Israel and Hezbollah, with Israelis reportedly bombing several Hezbollah targets in Syria in recent months. Israel has signaled that the targets were smuggling sophisticated weapons to Lebanon. Hezbollah officials said recently that they are not seeking war but are ready for it.

On her Facebook page, Gadot had praised Israel’s military during the 2014 Gaza-Israel war, sending prayers to soldiers “who are risking their lives protecting my country against the horrific acts conducted by Hamas.”

Officials at Lebanon’s Economy Ministry did not return calls seeking comment. The security official said banning a movie would ultimately come from the country’s interior minister following a recommendation from the six-member committee.

Warner Bros., which has released the film, declined comment.

Even though Lebanon enjoys a greater margin of freedom of expression than other countries in the region, prior censorship remains in place, particularly with content relating to Israel, religion and homosexuality.

Reflecting tightening of censorship, the Egyptian movie “Mawlana,” about a celebrity Muslim cleric, and a Lebanese movie, “Beach House,” about friends discussing their identities, were banned in Lebanon earlier this year.

“Mawlana” was later shown after cuts were made, said one cinema manager, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing controversy. The two movies were approved in Egypt.

There has been a precedent for the Arab League to call for banning Israel-linked films. In 2013, Arab nations acted on calls by the Arab League to ban the terrorism drama, “The Attack,” that was shot in Israel, even though it was made by Lebanese-born filmmaker Ziad Doueiri.

In a high profile case in 2009, Gad Elmaleh, a French comedian of Moroccan-Jewish descent, canceled his participation in one of Lebanon’s biggest festivals because of concerns for his safety after Hezbollah’s TV station alleged he served in the Israeli army.

In 2015, Miss Lebanon, Saly Greige, was in hot water when she appeared in a selfie with Miss Israel, Doron Matalon, in Miami. She later apologized and said the Israeli photobombed her selfie.

Support for the “Wonder Woman” boycott was not unanimous.

Elie Fares, a well-known Lebanese blogger, said the movie already must have been approved to be allowed in theaters in the first place. He said the push for a boycott apparently reflects disputes within the Lebanese government.

“Resist what?” Fares wrote. “A movie about an iconic superhero who’s been part of pop culture for over 70 years. A movie in which the lead actress happens to be Israeli but who’s not portraying ANYTHING related to her ‘country’ in any way whatsoever.”

Lebanon also has a website called “The Virtual Museum of Censorship” that tracks censored artwork since the 1940s.

Boycott campaign supporter Idriss rebuffed critics, saying that politics is inseparable from art.

“We don’t separate art — even romantic movies — from the role of the artist and the intellectual on the ground,” he said.

There is no clear mechanism for appealing a ban on artwork, and public campaigns often are the only means to protest such a ban. Religious institutions also have a say in artwork with religious references.

Despite the controversy in Lebanon, “Wonder Woman” is set to open as scheduled Thursday at theaters in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait on Thursday. It is scheduled for release June 22 in Oman and June 29 in Bahrain.

The movie, based on the DC Comics character, has earned acclaim for Gadot for landing a rare leading role for a woman.

A model and former Miss Israel, Gadot did her mandatory two-year military service in Israel before starting her acting career. She appeared in sequels of the “Fast and Furious” franchise, none of which were banned in Lebanon.

She appeared in other Hollywood movies before appearing as Wonder Woman in last year’s “Batman vs. Superman.”

The same campaigners sought to bar “Batman vs. Superman,” which was shown in Lebanese theaters.

Trump: The Habitual Fraud And Habitual Liar Can’t Keep His Lies Straight One Day Too Another

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BUSINESS INSIDER)

Spicer dodges questions on why Trump cited anonymous Fox report after decrying anonymous sources

Sean SpicerSean Spicer. Joshua Roberts/Reuters

White House press secretary Sean Spicer ducked a series of questions on Tuesday about President Donald Trump’s promotion of a Fox News story based on a single anonymous source just days after blasting such stories as “made up.”

The Monday Fox News report that Trump retweeted lays blame on the Russians, rather than Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Kushner, for discussing the possibility of a communications back channel between the Trump administration and Moscow. The Fox report cited “a source familiar with the matter.”

That report followed a Friday report in The Washington Post that said Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak told Moscow that Kushner was the one who wanted a secret communications channel between the Trump team and the Kremlin. The Post’s story cited US officials who had been briefed on intelligence reports.

On Sunday, Trump tweeted that “whenever you see the words ‘sources say’ in the fake news media, and they don’t mention names … it is very possibly that those sources don’t exist but are made up by fake news writers.”

Both the Post and Fox relied on anonymous sources for their stories. Trump tried discrediting such sourcing in a series of Sunday-morning tweets, but retweeted the Fox News story anyway on Tuesday.

Spicer said during Tuesday’s press briefing — his first time back at the podium in weeks — that questions from a Post reporter about what Trump knew of the back channel discussion “assumes a lot,” adding that what the “question assumes is a lot of facts that are not substantiated by anything but anonymous sources that are so far being leaked out.”

“Your question presupposes facts that have not been confirmed,” he said.

Another reporter asked if Trump’s retweet of the Fox News story confirmed any of the facts that Spicer said had not been confirmed. The reporter then listed some of the main points from the Fox News story.

“Was the president not confirming that there was an effort in the facts that I just said?” she asked. “He retweeted that.”

“I think what I just said speaks for itself,” Spicer responded.

The reporter noted that Spicer was attempting to discredited the Post’s anonymous sources while Trump was at the same time promoting a Fox story based off a single anonymous source.

“Why are those sources, or this source rather, that they used, more credible than the ones in the Washington Post article?” she asked.

Spicer dodged the question and pivoted to talking about a statement provided by Kushner’s attorney that he had already referenced in the briefing and then mentioning the “dossier,” a document prepared by an ex-British spy that contained unverified claims about Trump’s ties to Russia.

“So again, I’m not going to get into confirming stuff,” Spicer said. “There is an ongoing investigation.”

The reports about the December meeting between Russians and Trump officials in Trump Tower, which had already been under scrutiny from investigators, have thrust Kushner into the center of the ongoing Russia investigations. The FBI is investigating whether any members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Earlier this month, Trump fired the FBI director, James Comey, who was overseeing that investigation. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein then appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation.

Trump Lawyer Cohen Says He Won’t Comply With House, Senate Requests

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

MAY 30 2017, 1:00 PM ET

Trump Lawyer Cohen Says He Won’t Comply With House, Senate Requests

President Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, confirmed to NBC News that he has received requests for information from the Senate and House intelligence committees as part of their probes into Russian interference in the U.S. election, but says he won’t comply.

“I declined the invitation to participate,” said Cohen, “as the request was poorly phrased, overly broad and not capable of being answered.”

A congressional aide said the request letters, first reported by ABC News, were the same ones sent to former Trump aides Carter Page, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Mike Flynn and others. Those letters sought information about Russian contacts, and asked the recipients to turn over any communications with the Trump campaign about Russia.

Cohen is a long-time lawyer for both Trump and his business organization. He has served as executive vice president of the Trump Organization and special counsel to Trump.

Play
Trump’s Personal Lawyer Asked for Info in Russia Probe 3:17

In the dossier on Trump prepared by former British spy Christopher Steele, Cohen was alleged to have attended a secret meeting in Prague to discuss Russia’s hacking of Democratic targets, something Cohen has adamantly denied to NBC News and others in the past.

Related: FBI Made Deal With Ex-Spy For Trump Dossier

In February, Cohen told NBC News he was in Los Angeles when the Prague meeting was supposed to have occurred, taking his son to a meeting with the baseball coach at the University of Southern California.

Trump’s critics, he said, “are looking to malign President Trump, diminish his historic win and to undermine his presidency by claiming he didn’t win — that it was given to him by the Russians.”

Bangladesh: Powerful Cyclone ‘Mora’ Comes Ashore Nearly One Million Being Evacuated

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Dhaka, Bangladesh (CNN) Bangladesh is scrambling to evacuate nearly one million people from low-lying areas as a powerful tropical cyclone pounds the country’s southern coastline.

The cyclone, dubbed Mora, made landfall early Tuesday morning between the cities of Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar and is heading north, authorities in the capital Dhaka said.
“More people were still waiting for evacuation,” said Abu Syed Mohammad Hashim, acting director general of the department. Authorities have also shut airports and ports in the regions expected to be worst hit.
Khalid Mahmood, a director at Disaster Management Department, told CNN that no major casualties had been reported yet.
Residents were seeking shelter in schools and other safe buildings in 17 coastal districts, Hashim said. Officials have organized 3,800 relief centers ahead of the storm.
Medical teams have been formed and doctors and nurses have had their leave requests canceled in anticipation of the storm’s landfall, according to Bangladeshi state media. Hashim told the state-run news agency BSS that rescue teams comprised of members of the armed forces and other agencies were also on standby.
With about 700 kilometers of coastline, Bangladesh is exposed to cyclones and is often battered by deadly storms. Seven of the top ten deadliest storms in recorded history have occurred in either Bangladesh or Myanmar, according to CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.
“A combination of its lengthy and exposed coastline, inadequate infrastructure and plenty of fuel in the way of warm Bay of Bengal waters play a role in making this region the deadliest in the world as it relates to tropical cyclones,” Javaheri said.
At the southern end of the Bay of Bengal, Sri Lanka has been experiencing heavy monsoon rains and severe flooding, which have left at least 160 people dead and dozens more missing. The two weather systems, however, are unrelated.

Nearly 300,000 people were evacuated as Cyclone Mora barrelled towards Bangladesh's southeastern coast at speeds of more than 85 kilometres (53 miles) per hour, officials said.

Airports closed

Mora is the equivalent of a strong tropical storm and will bring winds around 100 kilometers per hour as it moves onshore, said CNN meteorologist Taylor Ward. A more significant problem than the winds will be the potential for flooding — from storm surge and heavy rainfall, he said.
“The coastline of Bangladesh is very low-lying and is prone to storm surge problems,” Ward said. “Additionally, tropical cyclones in the region bring extremely heavy rainfall which often turns deadly in the densely populated areas.”
In May 2016, Cyclone Roanu made landfall in Bangladesh with similar speed winds causing the deaths of at least two dozen people.
Some low-lying areas of Cox’s Bazar are already underwater due to an unusually high tide, state media reports.
The country’s two main seaports in Chittagong and Mongla have suspended container handling, and river transports across Bangladesh have been suspended. Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar have been advised to hoist the number 10 warning signal — the highest level — and other areas the lesser number eight signal.
The airports of Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar have also been closed; Cox’s Bazar indefinitely and Chittagong’s Shah Amanat International Airport until at least 2 p.m. local time (4 a.m. ET) Tuesday.
“We will reopen the airport if weather permits after 2 p.m. tomorrow… the suspension period will linger if the brunt of cyclone badly affects our airport infrastructure,” CAAB flight safety director Ziaul Kabir was quoted as saying.

Former Panamanian Dictator Manuel Noriega Dead At 83

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) Manuel Noriega, the former Panamanian dictator and convicted drug trafficker who was once one of Central America’s most notorious military strong men, has died, according to a tweet by Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela on his verified Twitter account.

Noriega, 83, had undergone surgery in a Panama City hospital on March 7 to remove a benign brain tumor. He was placed in a medically induced coma after suffering severe brain hemorrhaging during the surgery, his attorney told CNN affiliate TV Panama at the time.
Noriega, once on friendly terms with the United States because of his country’s location on the Panama Canal, became a US target as relations deteriorated. The United States invaded Panama in 1989 and Noriega was convicted of drug charges in 1991. He spent almost 20 years in US prisons before extradition to France and, ultimately, back to Panama.

Military man

Noriega was born on February 11, 1934, in Panama City, Panama. Abandoned by his parents at age 5, Noriega was raised by his aunt until he left to pursue a career in the military.
He began his career as a lieutenant in the Panama National Guard and quickly rose in rank. Noriega served as head of military intelligence to Gen. Omar Torrijos, who seized power in a military coup in 1968. Torrijos died in a plane crash in 1981, and Noriega emerged as his successor. In 1983 Noriega took command of the Panamanian Army and installed himself as Panama’s leader.
The country’s location was critical to the United States because of its location on the Panama Canal, a key strategic and economic waterway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Due to this regional importance, the US had a vested interest in maintaining good relations with the Central American nation.
Despite the incentives to maintain these relations, the 1980s saw a breakdown between the two countries, with Washington cutting off economic and military assistance and freezing Panamanian government assets.

Noriega was the first foreign head of state to be convicted in a US court.

‘Trial of the century’

In 1989, Noriega was indicted in the United States on charges of racketeering, laundering drug money and drug trafficking. He was accused of having links to Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar’s notorious Medellin cartel and, in the process, amassing a multimillion-dollar fortune.
Amid growing unrest in Panama, US President George H.W. Bush ordered the invasion of Panama — code named “Operation Just Cause” — in December 1989, saying Noriega’s rule posed a threat to US lives and property.
With more than 20,000 US troops on Panamanian soil, Noriega took refuge in the Vatican embassy in Panama City for 10 days, eventually surrendering to US Drug Enforcement Administration officials on January 3, 1990 after US troops had surrounded the compound with loudspeakers playing deafening rock music.
Noriega’s trial in 1991 was dubbed the drugs “trial of the century” by the US Drug Enforcement Administration and eventually saw him found guilty on eight counts and sentenced to 40 years in jail.

Noriega ruled Panama from 1983 to 1990.

Health crises

Noriega was the first foreign head of state to be convicted in a US court, and the trial also led to revelations that Noriega had been a paid CIA asset for many years.
“It’s wrong what people say — that you can buy him,” said Ambler Moss, the former US ambassador to Panama. “You can’t buy him, but you can sure as hell rent him.”
Noriega had since said his relationship with the United States soured when he refused to participate in anti-communist efforts spearheaded by the CIA in Central America during the 1980s The CIA has not commented on Noriega’s claims.
“You are a good person so long as you say yes. However, once you say no, then you become an evil guy,” Noriega recollected in a 1992 interview with CNN.
Noriega was granted prisoner of war status after his trial, and his sentence was later reduced to 30 years.

Noriega dealt with several health crises, including a possible stroke in 2012.

He was due for release on parole in 2007, but he was held pending a decision on a French extradition request — a Paris court had convicted Noriega in abstention in 1999 on charges that he had laundered $2.8 million in drug money by buying property in France.
As part of an extradition deal in April 2010 and signed by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, France agreed to hold a new trial and to uphold Noriega’s prisoner of war status.
After his extradition to Panama from France in 2011, Noriega dealt with several health crises, including a possible stroke in 2012.

Noriega apologizes

While serving his sentence in Panama he sued Activision Blizzard, makers of the popular Call of Duty videogame series, after one edition featured a mission to capture him.
His portrayal “as a kidnapper, murderer and enemy of the state” in the game damaged his reputation, he alleged, and argued that he was entitled to a share of the game’s profits. A California judge dismissed the suit.
In 2015, he apologized to his country for the offenses of his regime and his own actions that led up to the 1989 US invasion, and his ouster.
Noriega is survived by his wife, Felicidad Sieiro and three daughters Sandra, Thays and Lorena.

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