Israel weighs barring Americans, quarantine for Israelis coming back from US

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israel weighs barring Americans, quarantine for Israelis coming back from US

Official says government blocking move thus far over fears it could harm economic, political ties with United States; National Security Council to take over coronavirus decisions

An illustrative photo of a United Airlines plane takes off from Ben Gurion International Airport on June 18, 2013. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

An illustrative photo of a United Airlines plane takes off from Ben Gurion International Airport on June 18, 2013. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Israel on Friday was reportedly considering barring entry to citizens of a number of additional countries and forcing returning Israelis to self-quarantine, including from the United States, amid fears over the spread of the coronavirus.

The Health Ministry has been pushing to add the US to a list of destinations from where travelers entering Israel must be quarantined for 14 days, but other unspecified ministries were blocking the move over concerns it could harm political and economic ties with Washington, an unnamed senior government official told Hebrew media.

Amid tensions between various branches of government over how to handle the crisis, Economy Minister Eli Cohen told Channel 12 that Israel’s National Security Council would begin coordinating the response to the virus from Friday.

Cohen noted there were tensions between the Health Ministry’s desire for very strict measures and concerns by others that the moves could deeply impact Israel’s economy and political situation.

Minister of Economy and Industry Eli Cohen attends a party faction meeting in Tel Aviv on April 1, 2019. (Flash90)

In the case of restrictions on travel from the US, there were fears over how the Trump administration would react to such a decision, according to the Ynet news site.

A diplomatic official said a decision on the matter would be made next week.

“There are so many countries under discussion. The implications are being weighed, but above all it is important to protect the health of Israeli citizens,” the official said.

On Tuesday, Director General of the Health Ministry Moshe Bar Siman-Tov told Channel 12 that Israel is getting “close to the point where we’ll have to do something” about people coming from the US.

There are fears that the US is not taking adequate steps to contain the spread, with not enough testing kits immediately available and doubts over the ability of the uninsured to be able to afford tests and treatment.

US President Donald Trump on Friday signed an $8.3 billion measure to help tackle the coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than a dozen people in the US and infected more than 200.

It was possible that if the US was added to the list, Americans would not be banned like citizens of other countries, but would also be asked to self-quarantine, Friday’s reports said.

According to Channel 13 news, Israel is expected to announce Sunday that foreigners coming from Britain and the Netherlands would be denied entry to the country.

Israelis returning from there would be required to quarantine at home for two weeks, the report said.

A man walks past a screen displaying arriving flights at Ben Gurion Airport on March 4, 2020. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)

Beginning Friday morning, Israel banned non-nationals from Germany, Austria, France, Spain and Switzerland. Israelis returning from those countries were instructed Wednesday to enter self-quarantine for a period of 14 days after their last day in those nations. The decision applied retroactively to all who have come from those countries in the last 14 days.

Israel had already banned entry to foreigners who were in China, Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Italy in the 14 days prior to arriving, and compelled all Israelis recently in those areas to self-quarantine for two weeks.

Israel was the first country to urge its citizens to refrain from international travel entirely because of the outbreak, which started in China in December and has since infected nearly 100,000 in about 85 nations and claimed over 3,200 lives, almost all of them in China.

There have been 21 confirmed cases of the virus in Israel, including a bus driver whose condition on Friday was deteriorating.

Between 50,000 and 80,000 Israelis are under self-quarantine and large events such as concerts and sporting matches have been canceled due to directives issued by the Health Ministry.

Over 100,000 people have been infected worldwide and nearly 3,400 killed by the virus since it emerged in central China in December.

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(A Savage Commentary) When The Poor Serve No Need We Will Be Exterminated

When The Poor Serve No Need We Will Be Exterminated

 

Earlier I posted an article that came from the Government of China, the article was in several of their news outlets, the article stated that by the year 2027 in China’s Financial district alone that AI will cause the loss of 2.3 million jobs. Remember that their current President for life Mr. Xi Jinping is a devout follower of Chairman Mao. When Chairman Mao was in charge in China their country’s population was about one billion people and his policies were to let about half of the Nation starve to death. One of the main reason he gave was the Central Government’s inability to not only be able to control them but also their inability to feed them. The population of the United States and of Russia combined today is about 470 million people, Mao was speaking of letting 500 million of his own people starve to death. There are many reasons that China went to their ‘one child’ policies for several decades, these were two of their top reasons.

 

There are those in China and elsewhere in the world who will argue that these things could not happen today because we are now much more civilized and to this I have to say, O really. The United States is without a doubt a ‘surveillance State’ today, if you think otherwise you are being quite naive. There are good things about living in constant surveillance though, I have no doubt that the FBI, CIA, and the NSA have stopped quite a few attacks upon the American people because of their secretive work. Yet how much freedom do the people give up for the sake of being safer? The more a government knows, the more easily they can then totally control the lives of the people. When it comes to governing a Nation the main building block of their power is their ability to control the people. Lose control on the streets, they lose their grip on their power.

 

Now let’s get back to financials within a government. Unless you are oblivious to reality you should know that the tail that wags the dog, is money. Back in the mid 1970’s I worked in a Chrysler Assembly Plant in norther Illinois for just a couple of weeks (I couldn’t stand the thought of working on an assembly line putting cushions in-car seats for at least 37 years) so I quit. What I did notice was how many people worked on the different ‘lines’. As the cars went down the assembly line you had many people doing manual labor like spot welding and putting windshields into the car frames. Go there now, see how many jobs are still there and how many are being done by automation, the job loss is staggering. Even think of stores like Wal-Mart who are getting rid of their cashiers in favor of automation and self-checkouts. Now think about self driving cars, trucks and even trains. Even companies like Uber are killing the Taxi industry. What do all of these things have in common folks? Companies are trying to get rid of human employees and the reason is simple, more profits for the top end persons in these companies.

 

If you are old enough (I am 62) do you remember when we used to hear how technologies were going to allow the workers to only have to work 4 days a week because with technologies we could get 5 days work done in 4 days? Some people were foolish enough to think that their employer was going to pay you for 5 days work even though you only worked 4 days. Reality was that the employees still worked 5 days a week but the companies demanded 6 or 7 days of finished product in the 5 days, for no more pay. Then of course the companies could ‘let go’ some of their workforce because they didn’t need them anymore. The employment issue has just grown from there as more and more computers and machines have taken over jobs that humans used to do.

 

I have spoken of the world Stock Markets before, how I believe that they are nothing but a Ponzi scheme and a curse to the working class, the working poor who labor in these corporations who are on these ‘Markets.’ Some will argue that throughout the years that they have been buying and selling stocks and bonds that they have been able to amass a ‘nice little retirement fund’, yet in reality all of a persons profits that they have amassed over the past thirty years can easily be wiped out in one or two hours on this same ‘Market scheme.’ Little people like us working class folks at best get the crumbs that fall off of the ‘Boss Mans’ plate. We are no more than dogs licking their floor and their shoes. What takes you or I 30 years to amass the ‘connected’ make in one 5 minute transaction.

 

When there are lets say 4 billion working age poor people (ages 16-70) but there are only 2 billion actual jobs that need a humans hands to do, what will happen to the other 2 billion people, and all of their families, all of the children? The Republicans in the U.S Congress often refer to things like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Aid For Dependent Children, unemployment checks, VA Disability checks and even the VA itself as “entitlements” as “Welfare”, things that must be “defunded”, “stopped.” Why is this? The answer is simple, it takes away from the money that flows to the top end of the financial class. The Republicans say that they are the “Christian right” yet their actions are as anti-Christian as you can get in American politics. Do not get me wrong, I am no fan of the Democratic Party either with their platform of murdering babies (pro-abortion). Both ‘Parties’ are pure evil, they will both do everything that they can to make sure that the American people never get to have a viable 3rd or 4th political party and the reason is simple, that would take away from their power and they aren’t about to let that happen.

 

When there is not enough jobs for the poor people to do, not even slave labor jobs, who is going to house and feed these people if they can’t get an income? Is the top 1% going to just ‘give’ these people money from their bank accounts? When there is 7 billion people on the planet but only enough food or clean drinking water for 6 billion, who is going to get that food and clean water, the poorest of the poor people? Really? If you really think so, how naive you are my friend! In this new world that is on our doorstep, indeed kicking down our doors right now, you are either the lead dog, or you are daily looking up the lead dogs ass, drinking their piss for water and licking up their shit for food. In this regard, for the poor, this new world that we are all hurtling into, thousands, then millions, then billions of people will be fighting for a position behind these lead dogs just so they can stay alive. Those who refuse will not be fed and housed, we will be exterminated!

 

(A Savage Commentary) Government And Greed – The Slow Death Of America

Government And Greed – The Slow Death Of America

 

Friends, as we all know we have a lot of problems that we the people must address here in our country, that is if we wish to continue to have a country. Most of the problems we are not addressing at all, this tends to make these problems worse not better. I am going to try to address some of these problems here tonight and I would like your feedback on these issues if you have the time to do so. Poverty is the first thing on my agenda tonight. I know that almost no issue has only one side to it or one cause of it and certainly poverty is a worldwide curse which afflicts at least a couple billion people worldwide, but I am only going to try to address the U.S. problem here tonight.

A lot of our countries problems are generated because of poverty, what I am saying is that if we had no poverty here in our country a lot of other issues would for the most part disappear. The federal government says that the official unemployment rate is hanging out at about 4.2%, but most everyone I would think knows that this is simply a government generated farce. If you dig into the real numbers you find that the long-term unemployed (the people who have been unemployed longer than their unemployment checks) are not counted. Another outlier in the government’s figures is that if a person is able to find a part-time job the government counts them as being employed. These people are the folks usually referred to as the real unemployed and the underemployed. By what I hear from many of the “talking heads” on the radio I believe that the real unemployed/underemployed figure should be at least 10%. Of course some markets are better than others, some places may be 4% while others are 20%. Some people say that if you are in one of the bad areas just move to a better market. There is a problem with that line of thought though, what are these people suppose to use to move on, their good looks? Gas, rent, cars, deposits, these are things that most people in these situations simply do not have. As most everyone knows poverty causes many other problems besides major depression. People are going to need a roof over their head if they have any possibility to obtain employment, somehow people need to be able to pay their rent and utilities. Food, now that is an issue for humans even if they live under a bridge. People need jobs that will at least pay the minimum bills such as rent, utilities, and food. For most good jobs, (those that haven’t already left the country), people need real job skill training.

For about 30 years I was a commercial cross-country truck driver, in this job you get to see the reality people around our country are having to live in that you would never get to see if you were working in an office or a factory.  Out here you see 60+ year old women with obvious physical ailments working at fast food joints, jobs that the politicians seem to think only high school kids are doing. You see one-armed men working at guard gates checking in trucks and cleaning toilets in truck stops. Adults are doing these type jobs because it is all they can get and a lot of these jobs are just part-time so that the companies (just like at your local Wal-Mart) won’t have to pay any benefits. You know, people aren’t doing jobs like these because it is their life long ambition to work and live like this. Also, these type jobs are almost always paying at or very near the minimum wage. I know some folks will say that I am lying about seeing adults with these physical problems working like this because they could just file for social security and live on that. Have you ever tried to collect social security? If you are very lucky you will get your turn down notice within 12 months, then you can go get an attorney (they will work pro-bono) and refile, hopefully within 6-9 months you will get your next turn down. You and your attorney can then go before a judge (who is paid by social security), hopefully it will only take you about three months to see the judge then usually another couple of months before you get his decision. You see the problem most everyone has is that they don’t have anyway to survive while all this is going on, no food, no housing, nothing. If you are in that spot, what are you suppose to do? What would you do if it was you? Hopefully you have a wealthy family that will be willing to keep you and your family alive while you are trying to get your disability checks, very few are that fortunate. Some folks will say, well, they could get government housing. Even if you are lucky enough to live in a low crime area like where we live there is this thing called, a waiting list, I checked here, the waiting list is 42 months.

People all over our country are hurting badly even though the media doesn’t say much about it when one of their beloved far left democrats is setting in the White House, and no, I am not a republican. It is very common to see a three bedroom apartment being rented by three adults, or maybe three couples, this is not because people wish to live communal, it is so they have three paychecks to help split the rent (remember the comedy program Three’s Company)? So often I see adults in different fast food uniforms walking to their jobs. It’s not for the exercise for most folks, it’s because they can’t afford a car. With minimum wage jobs you have no extra money to spend on anything, cars, gas, insurance, or food and rent. If you are lucky enough to be in a position where you think I am blowing smoke up your behind, look in your local news paper for the cost of rent, now take a minimum wage paycheck after taxes and see how well you are going to be able to live, folks, it isn’t pretty.

As you travel around the country and you go through the cities you see things that will make you sick at heart. You see all the poverty and the slums, the graffiti, the trash. You also see all the bars on business windows and on the homes, you see homeless people wandering the streets along with the working girls and guys with so many strung out on one habit or another. You see people congregating under bridges as well as boarded up burnt out homes where the lucky homeless can find shelter as long as they are not one of the many crack houses. You know, many in politics want to get away from having any blame for any of our people s problems, but I believe that out government is the biggest problem that all of us Americans have. I am setting here in our living room watching the Presidents State of the Union Address, so much BS on both sides of the aisle. We here in America are a ship without a rudder, I wish we as a country had actual leaders who cared about the Constitution and our freedom more than their bank accounts. I guess I’m just dreaming.

Do You Actually Own Anything: Or Does The U.S.Federal Government Own It/You?

(This article is courtesy of OPB TV and Radio of eastern Oregon)

News | Nation | Local | An Occupation In Eastern Oregon

‘This Land Is Our Land’: The Movement Bigger Than The Bundys

The Pacific Patriots Network surrounded the Harney County Courthouse in January, where they met with Sheriff Dave Ward.

The Pacific Patriots Network surrounded the Harney County Courthouse in January, where they met with Sheriff Dave Ward.

Dave Blanchard/OPB

OPB’s Conrad Wilson and the Oregonian/OregonLive’s Maxine Bernstein update us on the last full week of the government’s case against the Malheur refuge occupiers.

Then, we take a look at the so-called Patriot Movement — a loosely connected network of organizations that are united in the belief the federal government has overstepped its authority.

Mark Potok is a senior fellow with the Southern Poverty Law Center. His job is to monitor groups that are a part of what he calls the “extreme right.” That includes everything from racist groups like the KKK and to groups like the Bundys, whose concerns revolve around severe distrust of the federal government.

Potok says many people in the groups he tracks believe there is “a secret plan to impose draconian gun control on all Americans” and “those who resist the coming seizure will be thrown into concentration camps that have been secretly built by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.”

SPLC has identified nearly 1,000 groups across the country with these kinds of beliefs and connects the groups to the philosophies that motivated the Ruby Ridge standoff in Idaho; the Waco, Texas, siege; and the Oklahoma City bombing.

Potok says there is a way to curb the movement.

“In the late ‘90s, the FBI made quite an effort … to meet with militiamen, to go out to have coffee to talk to these people about their concerns and fears, and in fact I think there’s a fair amount of evidence to suggest that was quite effective,” Potok said. “You realize the person you’re having coffee with is an actual human being just like you are.”uge

 

Joseph Rice is the head of the Josephine County chapter of the Oath Keepers — a group that Potok sees as central to so-called patriot groups. But Rice thinks SPLC is uninformed about his group.

“I’ve never spoken to those folks,” he said.

Rice was in Harney County when Ammon Bundy led a group to occupy the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, but Rice and his group didn’t join the occupation. Instead, he and a group of like-minded organizations known as the “Pacific Patriots Network” stuck around to provide security in town. The group said it was there to prevent another Waco or Ruby Ridge-like incident.

Those incidents, he says, were “lessons in history.” The individuals involved in those incidents “were living their life as they chose to live freely, without impact to others. It was only when the federal government came in they had impact, and that resulted in loss of life.”

Though he didn’t endorse it, Rice insists that the takeover of the refuge was an act of civil disobedience. And while he disagrees with the charges against Ammon Bundy and the other defendants, he does think the incident has drawn attention to issues around the federal control of land, which could be good for the aims of his group.

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Russian-controlled forces risking conflict with American troops in Syria

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER)

 

US diplomat: Russian-controlled forces risking conflict with American troops in Syria

Russian-controlled forces in Syria have been roaming deeper into U.S.-held territory, raising the risk of conflict in an apparent effort “to challenge our presence in the northeast,” according to a senior State Department official.

“These are not daily occurrences, but they have been increasing in number,” James Jeffrey, the State Department’s lead negotiator for the Syria crisis, told reporters on Wednesday. “It’s troubling.”

Those close encounters with American troops are just one accelerate in an already combustible scenario involving Russian-controlled, Iranian, and Syrian units and the Syrian Democratic Forces — the local Kurdish and Arab militias that partnered with the United States to defeat the Islamic State.

“They try to come deep into the area where the SDF are patrolling, well inside the basic lines that we have sketched,” Jeffrey said. “I will stress the professionalism of the troops on the ground, beginning with our troops, is such that these incidents have not escalated. But of course, any commander would be concerned about this, and we call upon the Russians to adhere fully to the deconfliction agreement.”

International efforts to end the civil war that has raged since 2011 remain stalled after negotiations over a committee to rewrite the Syrian Constitution were “frozen” in October. Jeffrey credited Russian diplomas with attempting to bring Assad into compliance with the demands leveled by the United Nations, which include pressing the regime to end human rights abuses and “dramatically change its relationship with Iran” and with Iran’s chief terrorist proxy, Hezbollah.

“Russia apparently feels that it cannot bring the regime to do the necessary things to bring it in line with the international community’s expectations and needs, so the Russians are going to press forward for a military victory,” Jeffrey surmised. “Whether that reflects differences within the Russian government, because there are clearly elements of the Russian government, such as the military — they’re very much all in on this awful offensive that is targeting, deliberately, civilians — or it could be problems in the triangle between Tehran, Moscow, and Damascus.”

Syrian forces shelled a Turkish military outpost, killing seven soldiers, on Monday. “Brutal actions by the Assad regime, Russia, the Iranian regime, and Hezbollah are directly preventing the establishment of a ceasefire in northern Syria,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday evening.

“We think that this is an extremely dangerous conflict,” Jeffrey said. “It needs to be brought to an end. Russia needs to change its policies.”

China: Xi says phase-one China-US trade deal benefits both sides, world

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SHANGHAI CHINA’S ‘SHINE’ NEWS NETWORK)

 

Xi says phase-one China-US trade deal benefits both sides, world

Xinhua

The phase-one economic and trade deal between China and the United States benefits both sides and the whole world, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Friday.

In a phone conversation with his US counterpart, Donald Trump, Xi noted that the two countries have reached the phase-one agreement on the basis of the principle of equality and mutual respect.

Against the backdrop of an extremely complicated international environment, the agreement benefits China, the United States, as well as peace and prosperity of the whole world, Xi said.

For his part, Trump said that the phase-one economic and trade agreement reached between China and the United States is good for the two countries and the whole world.

Noting that both countries’ markets and the world have responded very positively to the agreement, Trump said that the United States is willing to maintain close communication with China and strive for the signing and implementation of the agreement at an early date.

Xi stressed that the economic and trade cooperation between China and the United States has made significant contributions to the stability and development of China-US relations and the advancement of the world economy.

Modern economy and modern technologies have integrated the world as a whole, thus making the interests of China and the United States more intertwined with each other, Xi said, adding that the two sides will experience some differences in cooperation.

As long as both sides keep holding the mainstream of China-US economic and trade cooperation featuring mutual benefits and win-win outcomes, and always respect each other’s national dignity, sovereignty and core interests, they will overcome difficulties on the way of progress, and push forward their economic and trade relations under the new historical conditions, so as to benefit the two countries and peoples, Xi said.

China expresses serious concerns over the US side’s recent negative words and actions on issues related to China’s Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet, Xi said.

He noted that the US behaviors have interfered in China’s internal affairs and harmed China’s interests, which is detrimental to the mutual trust and bilateral cooperation.

China hopes that the United States will seriously implement the important consensuses reached by the two leaders over various meetings and phone conversations, pay high attention and attach great importance to China’s concerns, and prevent bilateral relations and important agendas from being disturbed, Xi said.

Trump said he is looking forward to maintaining regular communication with Xi by various means, adding he is confident that both countries can properly handle differences, and US-China relations can maintain smooth development.

Xi said he is willing to maintain contacts with Trump by various means, exchange views over bilateral relations and international affairs, and jointly promote China-US relations on the basis of coordination, cooperation and stability.

The two heads of state also exchanged views on the situation of the Korean Peninsula. Xi stressed that it is imperative to stick to the general direction of a political settlement, saying all parties should meet each other halfway, and maintain dialogue and momentum for the mitigation of the situation, which is in the common interests of all.

China imposes ‘reciprocal’ restrictions on US diplomats: spokesperson

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI CHINA NEWS AGENCY ‘SHINE’)

 

China imposes ‘reciprocal’ restrictions on US diplomats: spokesperson

Xinhua

China on Friday said it had taken “reciprocal” measures on US diplomats in the country.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a press conference that the Chinese side issued a note to the US Embassy in China on Wednesday, informing it of reciprocal measures going into immediate effect.

Hua made the remarks when asked to respond to reports that China had taken countermeasures in response to the previous restrictions imposed on Chinese diplomatic and consular officials posted in the United States.

In October, the United States ordered Chinese diplomats to notify the State Department in advance of any official meetings with US diplomats, local or municipal officials and before any visits to colleges or research institutions.

Asked to confirm reports that US diplomats in China are required to notify the Foreign Ministry five working says in advance of meetings with local officials, Hua said, the countermeasures “are reciprocal to the US State Department’s restrictive measures against Chinese diplomatic and consular officials.”

“We once again urge the US side to correct its mistake, withdraw the decision and provide support and convenience for Chinese diplomatic and consular officials posted in the United States as they fulfill their official duties,” she said.

Hua said China has always supported diplomatic and consular personnel from other countries, including the United States, in carrying out normal official duties according to law.

“We will take appropriate measures in response to US actions,” she said.

In Prisoner Swap, Iran Frees American Held Since 2016

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

In Prisoner Swap, Iran Frees American Held Since 2016

Xiyue Wang was a graduate student at Princeton who had been sentenced to 10 years in prison on two charges of espionage that U.S. officials have called groundless.

Credit…Hua Qu, via Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Iran on Saturday freed an American graduate student who had been imprisoned in Tehran for more than three years on suspicion of being a spy, in an exchange of prisoners at a moment of high tensions with Washington.

The American, Xiyue Wang, was flown in a Swiss government airplane from Tehran to Zurich, where he was met by Brian H. Hook, the State Department’s special representative for Iran, according to two senior United States officials.

Mr. Wang, 38, was a fourth-year Princeton University graduate student conducting research in Iran when he was arrested there in August 2016. He was charged with espionage and sentenced to 10 years in prison. United States officials deny that Mr. Wang, who had been locked in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, was a spy.

In exchange for Mr. Wang’s release, the United States freed Masoud Soleimani, an Iranian scientist who was arrested at a Chicago airport last year and was convicted on charges of violating American trade sanctions against Iran. American officials said that Mr. Soleimani’s release was a low price to pay for Mr. Wang’s freedom because Mr. Soleimani was expected to be released from prison as early as next month under a plea agreement.

The White House confirmed the prisoner swap early on Saturday with a statement from President Trump. Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, also confirmed the deal on Twitter and posted photos of himself accompanying Mr. Soleimani home on an Iranian jet.

The senior American officials, speaking only on the condition of anonymity to discuss the delicate nature of the exchange, said they saw no indication that it portended a larger dialogue with Iran.

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As part of a “maximum pressure campaign,” Mr. Trump has targeted the country with severe economic sanctions. The president, who withdrew from the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal, has said he hopes to negotiate with Tehran over its nuclear program and regional aggression. On Wednesday, Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, reiterated that Iran would be prepared to meet with the parties to the nuclear deal, including the United States, “whenever the U.S. lifts the unfair sanctions.”

Trump administration officials believe Iran may have released Mr. Wang in order to soften its image and deflect attention from a recent brutal crackdown on mass domestic protests. American officials believe the unrest has left hundreds dead and as many as 7,000 imprisoned, drawing condemnation from around the world.

Mr. Hook, who flew to Zurich overnight on an American military jet to meet Mr. Wang on Saturday, briefed reporters on Thursday at the State Department on the crackdown, denouncing “the atrocities the Iranian regime has committed against its own people.”

But it was Mr. Hook, working through Swiss intermediaries who often serve as a diplomatic channel between Washington and Tehran, who negotiated the prisoner exchange.

Mr. Hook has had no direct contact with Iranian officials since a March 2018 meeting in Vienna shortly before Mr. Trump withdrew from the nuclear agreement. In Vienna, Mr. Hook insisted to Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, that Mr. Wang’s transparent activities made clear he was no covert operative. Mr. Araghchi countered that perhaps Mr. Wang had simply not been trained well, according to a senior United States official.

Mr. Wang, who has a wife and a young son, was a student of late-19th- and early-20th-century Eurasian history, according to a Princeton University website. Backed by university funding, he went to Iran in 2016 to study Farsi and conduct archival research for his doctoral dissertation.

Before his visit, Mr. Wang explained in writing his research plan to the Iranian interest section at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, which issued his visa. “He was not involved in any political activities or social activism,” the university says.

Iran’s government charged that Mr. Wang had been “sent” to the country by Princeton and that he had ties to United States intelligence agencies.

In September 2018, a United Nations human rights panel found that Iran had “no legal basis” for Mr. Wang’s “arbitrary” imprisonment and said he should be released immediately.

Mr. Wang was born in 1980 in Beijing and in 2001 came to the United States, where he was naturalized in 2009. His release follows rumors of a breakthrough in his case, and his lawyer, Jason I. Poblete, tweeted on Wednesday that he was “hopeful there is progress in the near future” for Mr. Wang’s freedom.

Jason I Poblete@JasonPoblete

We are hopeful there is progress in the near future to reunite American citizen with his wife and young son. All stakeholders should help resolve @FreeXiyueWang case and all others.

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Mr. Wang’s wife, Hua Qu, celebrated his release in a statement on Saturday. “Our family is complete once again,” she said. “Our son Shaofan and I have waited three long years for this day, and it’s hard to express in words how excited we are to be reunited with Xiyue.”

Mr. Soleimani, a prominent stem cell researcher who had been treating stroke patients at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, was charged with violating American trade sanctions by seeking to transfer growth hormones to Iran without a license. (He is not related to the senior Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani.) His lawyers argued that the sanctions law at issue was ambiguous and that he had been swept up in rising tensions between the United States and Iran under Mr. Trump.

Mr. Soleimani flew to Zurich on the same aircraft as Mr. Hook, under the supervision of federal marshals.

Iran has long spoken of a potential prisoner swap with the United States. In September, Mr. Zarif told NPR that he had offered to exchange Mr. Wang for Mr. Soleimani.

“The Chinese American in Iran is in jail on a charge on a court case. And I have offered to exchange them, because as foreign minister I cannot go to our court and simply tell them, ‘release this man,’” he said. “I can go to the court and tell them, ‘I can exchange this man for an Iranian,’ and then have a standing, have a legal standing in the court.”

Several other Americans remain in custody in Iran, and Trump administration officials call their release a top priority.

Unrest in Iran and Prisoner Exchanges
With Brutal Crackdown, Iran Is Convulsed by Worst Unrest in 40 Years

As Iran vs. West Tensions Rise, So Does Uncertainty Over Prisoners

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Michael Crowley is a White House correspondent, covering President Trump’s foreign policy. He joined The Times in 2019 from Politico, where he was the White House and national security editor, and a foreign affairs correspondent. @michaelcrowley

China: US act on Hong Kong ‘completely unnecessary’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI CHINA NEWS AGENCY ‘SHINE’)

 

US act on Hong Kong ‘completely unnecessary, unjustifiable’: HKSAR chief executive

Xinhua

US act on Hong Kong 'completely unnecessary, unjustifiable': HKSAR chief executive

AFP

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks during a press conference at the government headquarters in Hong Kong on December 3, 2019.

The Hong Kong-related act recently passed by the US Congress and signed into law by the US president is “completely unnecessary and unjustifiable,” Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday.

At a media briefing before the weekly Executive Council meeting, Lam said the HKSAR government strongly opposes the so-called Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, and regards it as a “very regrettable” move by a foreign legislature and administration to interfere in the Hong Kong affairs through their own legislation.

Stressing that the human rights and freedom of Hong Kong residents are well protected by the HKSAR Basic Law, Lam pointed out “we enjoy a high degree of freedom in many aspects, including freedom of press, freedom of assembly and demonstration, as well as religious freedom.”

Lam noted that the major chambers of commerce here have been strongly opposing the act, adding that the act may even bring harm to US companies, considering that there are more than 1,300 US enterprises that have operation or even regional headquarters in Hong Kong.

As for the suspension of reviewing applications to visit Hong Kong by US military ships and aircraft and the sanctions against some US non-governmental organizations announced by the Chinese central government on Monday, Lam said the central government shall be responsible for the foreign affairs related to the HKSAR, and the HKSAR will cooperate and follow up in accordance.

5 largest employers in the world

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL GENIUS)

 

5 largest employers in the world

Unless you’re a trust fund baby, you probably work for a living. We go to a place of business on specific days and earn a wage so that we can afford to live. In the United States, many people are employed by small businesses, which according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, can range from a staff of one to as many as 1,500 employees. But many firms employ an international workforce or have so many employees that they are considered some of the largest employers in the world. From smallest to largest, these are the five largest employers in the world according to the World Economic Forum.

5. China National Petroleum Corporation – 1.7 million employees

Credit: Piotr Swat / Shutterstock.com

Regardless of your feelings about oil discovery and production, it’s a major industry with activity around the world. You might think that a multinational company like Royal Dutch Shell or British Petroleum would make this list, but they don’t. China National Petroleum Corporation is a state-run organization that operates rigs and refineries in 30 countries around the world, even north of our border in Canada.

The organization employs roughly 1.7 million employees, making them the fifth largest employer worldwide. Additionally, they’re also the third largest incorporated energy production firm in the world that specializes in oil and gas. Not only do they explore for new deposits, but they also focus on refining and marketing their products beyond their home country.

4. McDonald’s – 1.7 million employees

Credit: Ratana21 / Shutterstock.com

Even if you’re not a big fast food fan, you’re familiar with the Golden Arches, Ronald McDonald and his wacky crew of friends, and iconic sandwiches like the Big Mac and Fillet ‘o Fish. McDonald’s makes the list as the fourth largest employer; they operate in over 100 countries and serve over 69 million customers. Between franchise and corporate employees combined, the eatery employs 1.7 million people. If you narrow the criteria to private companies, the burger chain rises higher as the second largest employer in the world.

3. Walmart – 2.1 million employees

Credit: Ken Wolter / Shutterstock.com

Depending on who you talk to, Walmart is either the savior of budget-focused families or the bane of small business owners. Either way, there’s no denying that the big box conglomerate is a major employer in the United States and abroad. Often, they replace positions lost when factories and manufacturers move production elsewhere. Because of this, they are the third largest employer in the world.

Walmart also beats out McDonald’s as the largest private employer in the world. The retailer isn’t limited to the United States: The family-owned firm also has subsidiary locations in the United Kingdom under the supermarket name Asda and South Africa as Massmart. Across all of its verticals, Walmart employs 2.1 million employees worldwide.

2. People’s Liberation Army of China – 2.35 million employees

Credit: Hung Chung Chih / Shutterstock.com

War is big business, which explains why the second runner-up and leader of this list are two major military operations. China holds the title for the largest population at 1.42 billion people. So, it makes sense that they have a fairly large army. The People’s Liberation Army employs 2.35 million active military personnel or 0.18% of the nation’s population.

Just like in the U.S., China’s army is segmented into branches: Support Force, Navy, Air Force, Ground Force, Rocket Force, and a reservist branch. While the U.S. still has the largest military force in the world, China is quickly ramping up its assets. The nation’s military is currently classified as the fastest growing military outfit in the world thanks to numerous technological advances.

1. United States Department of Defense – 3.2 million employees

Credit: Sergey Kohl / Shutterstock.co

We round out this list with the United States Department of Defense. At 3.2 million employees worldwide, they eclipse China’s army by nearly 1 million. However, the U.S.’s figure doesn’t just refer to active duty military and reservists of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard or National Guard. This also includes members employed by the other 38 critical agencies that fall under the Department of Defense.

So why does the Department of Defense have such a huge workforce? This is because the U.S. has the largest military budget in the world and eclipses any other nation in money allocated toward technological defense advancements.

The above list might be a big surprise if you were expecting only Fortune 500 firms. This top five list reflects the fact that China’s influence as a nation and economic force continues to grow while the U.S. is able to maintain a strong presence since more than half of the countries with the largest workforces are headquartered in the United States.