Army breaks ground on first of four new facilities to prepare infantrymen, tanks and combat engineers for urban warfare
Day after reports of Trump shouting at Abbas about incitement, former top official dismisses PA claims that it is making ‘social welfare’ payments, saying they are presented as ‘salaries’ in Palestinian budget documents
(TRUMP AND ABBAS: TWO TOTAL FRAUDS, TWO HABITUAL LIARS, ONE IDIOT (TRUMP) ONE MASS MURDERER (ABBAS) WHAT A PAIR!)
President’s outburst in last week’s talks, alleging PA chief is engaged in anti-Israel incitement, was followed by shocked silence, Channel 2 claims; Palestinians insist meeting went fine
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)
The fake news comes from within the White House
To believe Donald Trump, you must believe two largely contradictory things.
You must believe that there are a slew of leakers in the executive branch who are providing damning details to the press illegally, and who must be rooted out and punished. (See tweets here, here, here, here and here.)
You must also believe that the press makes up imaginary leakers simply to slowly and incrementally report false stories that are tangentially embarrassing to the president. The most recent examples of Trump making that case came on Sunday (“Whenever you see the words ‘sources say’ in the fake news media, and they don’t mention names,” he said on Twitter, “it is very possible that those sources don’t exist but are made up by fake news writers. #FakeNews is the enemy!”), but he’s been railing against this idea that some media sources are not real since the campaign. (See tweets here and here.)
The result is that we end up with a president who at 8:33 a.m. says that it’s his opinion “that many of the leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies made up by the #FakeNews media,” and then at 10:43 a.m. says that the prime minister of the United Kingdom was mad about information that was leaked.
Trump, unlike most politicians and, frankly, most people, will nonchalantly argue two logically inconsistent points at the same time. On the campaign trail, he mastered the art of vague assurance that he stood for whatever his audience stood for, and, in office, that skill doesn’t seem to have faded. If it is best that people think a leak was made up by the media — like The Post’s report that Jared Kushner asked Russia to help set up a secure communication system with the Trump team — then Trump will argue that the media made it up. (We didn’t.) If the leak is incidental to him or if he’d like to put the heat on someone else, he’ll argue that the leakers need to be caught.
As Trump knows, though, there are many reasons for someone to provide information without wanting to be identified. Trump himself used to call news outlets pretending to be his own publicist so that he could share details without revealing the source. And while Trump administration officials often speak on the record to the media, they nearly as often speak only on background as so-called “senior administration officials,” faceless voices praising Trump without being able to be held accountable for what they said. It happens so often that the abbreviation “SAO” is understood immediately by the press.
Here, for example, are a number of things that the White House has provided to the White House press corps using sources who refused to be named. (All quotes are from pool reports filed by members of the media.)
Jan. 28: About the immigration ban.
The official said that Trump advisers had been in contact for many weeks with key State Department and Department of Homeland Security officials about Friday’s executive order. “Everyone who needed to know was informed,” the official said.
When the administration was forced to craft a second attempt at the ban a month after this, press secretary Sean Spicer told press that the first attempt was flawed by not having enough people in place to vet it.
The official said green-card holders from one of the seven affected countries who are currently outside the United States will need a case by case waiver to return to the United States, according to the official. Those green-card holders in the United States will have to meet with a consular officer before leaving the country, the official said.
Jan. 29: Immigration ban.
The SAO said there was no “advance notice” of the order going out for clear reasons that he did not explicitly outline. “I think everybody here can use their imagination to imagine 25 reasons why that wouldn’t make sense from a security standpoint,” SAO said.
The SAO said that “the guidance from the beginning” has been that legal permanent residents (LPRs) were exempt from the immigration EO, although there was some discussion about that in the room.
Notice that the comment about LPRs contradicts the statement from the previous day about green-card holders.
SAO praised the implementation of the order as having been done “seamlessly” and with “extraordinary professionalism.”
A common thread: Praise for whatever the administration is doing.
Feb. 14: On peace in the Middle East.
The official said a possible meeting between the Israelis and Palestinians would be part of the discussions tomorrow. “He’s hopeful to bring the two sides together to discuss peace,” the official said of the president. How quickly would he like to get a Middle East peace process going? “I do think it’s a very high priority for the administration,” the official said, who would not be pinned down on timeline.
Feb. 24: A response to reports that the White House had tried to get intelligence officials to deny reports about FBI investigations.
[FBI assistant director] Andrew McCabe said ‘I want you to know story in NYT (in FBI investigating contacts between Trump campaign people and Russian intel) is BS.’ (Some question whether he said bullshit or simply BS although officials best recollection is ‘bullsh-t.’) Preibus asked ‘what can we do about this?’ McCabe demurs and says he’ll get back to Preibus. Preibus’ can concern is he’s ‘getting crushed’ on the story. ‘What an I supposed to do?’
An unnamed official relaying a conversation held within the White House is the sort of thing that Trump in other contexts has harshly criticized.
Mar. 10: Conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
President Trump has been “heartened” by what he has heard from Berlin about devoting more resources to the annual NATO military budget. POTUS intends to talk with Merkel about her government crafting a “concrete plan,” the senior official said. POTUS is “very interested” to get Merkel’s insights about working with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the senior official said.
As is an unnamed person offering insight into Trump’s conversations with foreign leaders.
Apr. 12: Trump had a good week.
The main theme was that this has been a successful week or so for Potus on the international stage, including the retaliation against Syria, the summit with President Xi and today’s U.N. vote. “It’s difficult to portray this as anything but a really great week” for the United States.
May 23; From the early part of Trump’s first foreign trip.
So I think this trip was a big success because it was unexpected. It went in the heart of one of the, I always say that the president is always at his best when he’s doing big things that are unexpected. … He was able to really go into Saudi Arabia, the custodian of the holy mosques, and then Donald Trump united the entire Muslim world in a way that it really hasn’t been in many years. So it really was very historic in that regard.
The official then talked about peace in the Middle East again.
You can’t just walk in on Day One and sign a deal that no one has gotten done in 35 years but we thought it was very essential to look at the work over the last 100-odd days and this trip is to do a lot of listening, build very strong relationships with all the different people, not just the parties involves, but all the people in the neighborhood.
May 25: The trip, continued.
This official continued, “What Trump’s doing really is increasing NATO’s ability to deter any kind of aggression on its borders, including from Russia.”
May 27: The end of the trip.
I feel more than comfortable to say that the President had built an extraordinary rapport with the other leaders. He developed great friendships. It was extremely productive. … This trip has left no one with any doubt about who America’s friends are and who America’s allies are, and our resolution in determining the course of our future based upon upholding those alliances and friendships. But ultimately, we also formed new partnerships and new friendships, and have created a growing consensus around the world about the need to combat the shared threat of terrorism.
The SAO offered a summary.
I’ll just implore you all, whether you’re talking about our successes on trade and migration in the G-7 or summit in Saudi Arabia, to tell the story back home about what an unprecedentedly and historically successful trip this was by an incredible leader and an amazing man who has done extraordinary things in a very short time for the country he loves and the people of America that he serves so faithfully.
Again, these are the anonymous comments of senior officials reported by the press, precisely what happens in situations that lead to stories Trump doesn’t like. But since Trump doesn’t like those stories, those anonymous sources are decried as criminals or imaginary. The guys telling the press how well Trump’s trip went? They’re just regular old unnamed senior officials, and their word is unimpeachable.
Couple those SAOs with Trump’s hundreds — literally — of untrue statementssince he came into office and his tendency to have staff make claims that he later undercuts (something he himself admits), it seems pretty clear where the fake news originates, if Trump is to be believed.
Incidentally, for those curious about why Trump might think that someone would create a fictitious source to make a ridiculous claim, we return to the same well we’ve visited so many times before: His tweets.
(I PULLED THIS ARTICLE FROM TV CHANNEL 3 AND CNN)
A volcanic eruption Sunday prompted the temporary raising of the highest aviation alert, the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) said Sunday.
The event, which took place on Alaska’s Bogoslof Island, part of the Aleutian island chain, caused the issuance of a code “red” aviation alert, which was subsequently downgraded to “orange.”
The cloud from the eruption reached at least 35,000 ft., and possibly as high as 45,000 ft., the Observatory said.
“We actually went to color code red this afternoon because of numerous lightning detections and increased seismic signals,” Jeffrey Freymueller of the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks tells CNN.
“Lightning in the Aleutians is mostly due to volcanic plumes, as the meteorological conditions for lightning are not common,” Freymueller said.
“The combination of lightning and seismic data allowed us to go to red within about half an hour of the start of the eruption.”
The eruption lasted for about 50 minutes, the AVO said.
Flight path concern
The volcano sits under the flight path of many flights from Asia to North America and its ash cloud could adversely affect aircraft. “Ash and aircraft do not mix, as volcanic ash is abrasive, melts at jet engine temperatures, and can cause engine failure,” according to the United States Geological Survey.
Aircraft are often instructed to fly around or over ash clouds, although in some circumstances air traffic has been grounded due to the hazards from airborne ash. In 2010 the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland caused the cancellation of flights around Europe for six days.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) last week said that flights were being rerouted around a similar ash cloud when the volcano previously erupted, according to CNN partner CBC.
‘Heightened state of unrest’
An image taken by AVO scientists around 14 minutes after the start of the eruption, from nearby Unalaska Island, showed a large white-gray mushroom cloud form over the site. Ash fallout was occurring to the west of the site, according to AVO.
Bogoslof volcano remains at a heightened state of unrest and in an unpredictable condition,” according to a report issued by the Observatory, which added that “additional explosions producing high-altitude volcanic clouds could occur at any time.”
It warns that continuing low-level activity could “pose a hazard in the immediate vicinity of the volcano.”
Previous volcanic activity earlier in 2017 “significantly changed the shape and coastline of the island” and the land mass tripled in size between early 2015 and January of this year.
There have been eight documented eruption events at Bogoslof, the most recent one in 1992. Previous eruption events have lasted weeks to months, according to the AVO. This current eruption sequence started in December, 2016.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER)
Standing in the blue-tiled shadows of one of Iran’s greatest mosques, armed with a dish of sesame caramel snacks, Mohammed Reza Zamani is a cleric on a mission to repair the country’s image in the west, one tourist at a time.
“Free Friendly Talks” a billboard announces in English, at the entrance to a historic religious seminary-turned-museum, in the central city of Isfahan, a former imperial capital so beautiful that even today Iranians describe the city as “half the world”.
Tourism brings both money and a more positive international image for Iran, says Zamani, 36, a theology student, who is keen to ensure that visitors who might once have been alarmed by his clerical turban and robes feel welcome in his city.
“I think the moment they set foot in Iran [foreigners] find it totally different from what they expect, and their minds are changed by the people when visitors talk to us,” he said, as he took a short break between explaining marriage and circumcision traditions to a group of Italians and discussing millenarian religious beliefs with a man from the Netherlands.
Iran’s reformist president, Hassan Rouhani, staked his government and reputation on opening Iran to the world, sealing a nuclear deal that ended sanctions and courting foreign investment in its wake.
Rouhani was re-elected for a second term in a landslide victory last weekend, a sweeping endorsement of his policy from the Iranian people. And for many Iranians the growing flood of foreigners armed with guidebooks and selfie sticks is one of the most visible signs of change and re-engagement.
“Isfahan lives by tourists,” said Masood Mohamedian, a former lorry driver who this year gambled all his savings on opening a small cafe serving traditional snacks just off the main square. “I am 100% happy with Rouhani as president.”
Tourism to Iran might seem like a hard sell. The initial problem is the country’s reputation, tied up inextricably for many in the west with dramatic television images of the US embassy hostage crisis from 1979-81, and the fatwa issued in 1989 against Salman Rushdie for his book The Satanic Verses. More recently, the crackdown that followed disputed 2009 elections, and arrests of figures such as Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, have done little to soften that image. And the country’s conservative religious and social rules, which visitors must observe along with citizens, might deter some westerners.
There is little public nightlife, no alcohol, men and women cannot kiss or embrace in public, and women in particular must observe a relatively strict dress code, wearing a headscarf and covering their arms and legs. But tens of thousands of people have decided that Iran’s attractions far outweigh those constraints. And Iran has tried to encourage them by easing restrictions on travel.
Europeans from countries including France, Italy and Germany, who account for the majority of western tourists, can now get visas on arrival in Tehran, and at the main sites they mingle with sightseers from China, Japan and elsewhere.
“When the sanctions were lifted, I decided to come as soon as possible,” said Simonetta Marfoglia, an Italian tourist who was halfway through a two-week trip. “I had read a lot of Iranian poetry, and I am very interested in the history of the region. I am really very happy to be visiting: the people are wonderful, there is great hospitality, and it’s very friendly.”
The country boasts an extraordinarily rich cultural heritage, from the ruins of ancient Persepolis to Isfahan and other historic cities, such as Kashan, Tabriz and Shiraz.
Food-lovers can feast on dishes from a sophisticated cuisine that is winning increasing recognition in the west, with dishes such as fesenjan, a rich, tart and sweet chicken stew thick with walnuts and pomegranate molasses.
There are also bazaars packed with carpets and handicrafts for shoppers, a thriving contemporary arts scene and spectacular natural beauty ranging from beaches to stark deserts and snow-capped mountains. .
Together these factors have fuelled a dramatic rise in western tourists to Iran, although the majority of its two million visitors are still religious pilgrims visiting its major shrines.
Isfahan, the jewel in Iran’s heritage crown and more a destination for tourists than pilgrims, counted just over 5,000 visitors a month in 2013, when Rouhani came to power. By spring 2017 that number had risen to 85,000 in a single month, the newspaper Isfahan Today reported.
The surge in visitors has been so dramatic that some nights in high season every single hotel room in the city is taken, according to the receptionist at the newly built Zenderood Hotel.
Foreign hotel chains are eyeing the market enthusiastically, particularly since some of the biggest American players are still in effect barred. US sanctions have stayed in place after the nuclear-linked bans were lifted, leaving the field clear for European and other groups. Dubai-based Rotana Hotels is the latest firm to unveil plans for a new hotel in Isfahan, following the likes of the French chain Accor.
Spanish heritage hotel company Paradores is also looking at opportunities in the country, whose famous hotels include a former caravanserai that housed traders bringing lucrative goods to market in the 16th century.
The biggest challenge to Iran’s goal of increasing tourist numbers tenfold within the decade may be the pace of change they represent, in a country where Rouhani’s conservative rival still managed to garner 16 million votes in the election.
“I am unhappy about their cultural impact, because of their customs,” grumbled Mohammed Paknahad, a shopkeeper in Isfahan’s bazaar, who said tourists rarely bought his handicrafts. “Some of the women don’t cover their bodies properly.”
Charles Krauthammer’s assertion that the Obama administration’s policy toward Iran amounted to “appeasement” was a gross misrepresentation. The policy’s primary objective was to block Iran’s nuclear weapons development program. It was Iran that conceded ground on this, not the United States.
Mr. Krauthammer also was wrong to claim that this agreement has failed to encourage more moderate Iranian behavior. In the recent presidential election, the Iranian people overwhelmingly rejected the conservative candidate. And the moderate victor immediately reached out to the West.
Mr. Krauthammer accused Iran of “worldwide support for terrorism.” However, as Fareed Zakaria reported the same day, Saudi-inspired Sunni jihadists are responsible for more than 94 percent of the deaths caused by Islamic terrorism since 2001.
Robin Broadfield, Washington
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)
Selwood sprung up on the gunnel at the bow of the boat to avoid the thrashing shark and steadied himself by clinging to the tubular metal frame of the sun shelter, known as a bimini.
“I didn’t give it a chance to look me in the eyes. I wanted to get up and get on top of the gunnel because it was thrashing around madly,” Selwood told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
“Flash Gordon wouldn’t have caught me,” he said, referring to the athletic science fiction comic book hero of the 1930s.
Selwood used a hand-held radio to call the Evans Head coast guard and stayed on the gunnel until a rescue boat arrived.
Coast guard skipper Bill Bates said he misread the danger when Selwood reported his predicament.
“He said, ‘I’m injured, I’ve broken my arm, I’ve got lacerations and there’s a shark in my boat,’” Bates said.
“Often a fisherman will bring a small shark on board — maybe 2 or 3 feet (up to 1 meter) — and they’re still ferocious. That’s what I was expecting, but I was totally wrong,” he added.
The coast guard crew rescued Selwood, but left the shark alone. The shark was estimated to weigh 200 kilograms (440 pounds).
“The shark was thrashing inside the boat, taking up the entire deck area — there was no way you’d put a foot in there,” Bates said.
The coast guard took Selwood to paramedics at Evans Head, where his badly swollen arm was cleared of any fracture.
The coast guard later towed Selwood’s boat with the shark into Evans Head just before nightfall.
“We think it was already dead at that stage, but no one was game to put their finger in to find out,” Bates said.
Why the shark flung itself over the motor and into the anchored boat is a mystery.
Selwood said he was sitting on a cooler, known generically in Australia by the popular brand name Esky, with two hand lines off the port and starboard sides of the boat when he saw one of the lines move as if a fish was hooked.
“I hopped up off the Esky, I touched the hand line and I just caught a blur coming in the corner of me eye and just out of instinct,” Selwood said. “I threw me right arm up and this thing hit me in the forearm and spun me around and knocked me off me feet.”
“This thing was beside me and I looked over and thought, ‘Oh, a bloody shark.’ So I just climbed — he was doing a mad dance around, he was thrashing everywhere,” he added.
Selwood said he’ll have to replace destroyed equipment, including buckets and coolers, before returning to the fishing spot he’s visited for more than 50 years.
“He didn’t do anything structural to me boat, it just smashed anything that was in his road. You can understand, he was a wild creature out of his comfort zone,” Selwood said.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)
South Korea questions six rescued North Koreans as it eyes engagement
The rescue comes as South Korea’s new liberal government has pledged a more moderate approach to North Korea including engagement and reopening a communication channel that has been severed amid tension over its arms programs.
The six are believed to have been on two fishing vessels, one of which was overturned, when they were rescued by the South Korean coastguard and the navy on Saturday, the coastguard said.
The six were being questioned by a South Korean team, and would be asked if they wished to be repatriated to the North, Unification Ministry spokesman Lee Duk-haeng told a briefing.
If so, they would be sent home, said the ministry, which handles ties with the North.
Such questioning by South Korean authorities is routine when North Koreans are rescued at sea.
The South returned eight North Koreans and their vessels in December after rescuing them off the east coast, in line with their wishes.
Lee said incidents such as the rescue and the repatriation of the crew were examples of why an open line of communication between the two Koreas was needed.
South Korea imposed unilateral sanctions against the North after its fourth nuclear test and a long-range rocket launch last year, in addition to sanctions applied in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean navy ship that Seoul blamed on the North.
North Korea denied involvement in the sinking.
The sanctions cut off almost all exchange between the rival states that had been set up since 2000, when South Korea’s “sunshine policy” brought a period of cautious rapprochement.
(Reporting by Heekyong Yang; Editing by Jack Kim)