Trump The Moron At It Again: Saying Obama Got The British Intelligence Agency To Spy On Him

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)

White House Seeks to Allay British Concerns Over Unfounded Wiretapping Claim

11:43 AM ET
White House officials tried to calm the concerns of British allies after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer repeated an unfounded claim that the British spy service spied on President Trump. But the White House is stopping short of saying it offered an apology to its closest foreign ally.

“[British Ambassador to the U.S.] Kim Darroch and [National Security Advisor] Sir Mark Lyall expressed their concerns to Sean Spicer and General McMaster,” a White House official said Friday. “Mr. Spicer and General McMaster explained that Mr. Spicer was simply pointing to public reports, not endorsing any specific story.”

Several British outlets reported Friday that the White House apologized to the U.K. government, but the White House would not confirm those accounts.

The row began Thursday, as Spicer repeated the claim of Fox News personality Andrew Napolitano, who suggested that former President Obama had ordered GCHQ, the U.K.’s equivalent of the National Security Agency, to spy on his successor. For nearly two weeks the White House has been struggling to justify Trump’s assertion in a March 4 tweet that Obama had him “wire tapped.”

On Thursday, the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee jointly stated they’ve seen no evidence of any surveillance of Trump Tower. Even Trump allies in Congress are staying away from the claim, though Trump maintained Wednesday in an interview with Fox News that he would be vindicated by new information “very soon.” The White House has argued that Trump’s use of quotation marks around the phrase wires tapped implied he meant all manners of surveillance against him, but hasn’t offered any official proof of the claim, beyond reports in the press.

Reading a long list of media reports that mentioned alleged signals intelligence about Trump and his ties to Russia, Spicer quoted comments.

“Last, on Fox News on March 14th, Judge Andrew Napolitano made the following statement,” Spicer said during the daily White House briefing. “‘Three intelligence sources have informed Fox News that President Obama went outside the chain of command. He didn’t use the NSA, he didn’t use the CIA, he didn’t use the FBI, and he didn’t use the Department of Justice. He used GCHQ, what is that? It’s the initials for the British Intelligence Spying Agency. So simply, by having two people saying to them, “The President needs transcripts of conversations involved in candidate Trump’s conversations involving President-elect Trump,” he was able to get it and there’s no American fingerprints on this.'”

Within hours GCHQ responded in a rare statement calling the claim “utterly ridiculous.

“Recent allegations made by media commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct ‘wire tapping’ against the then President Elect are nonsense,” a GCHQ spokesperson said. “They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored.”

Asked by a reporter whether the subject of GCHQ’s alleged involvement had raised between the two governments and whether it would affect the so-called “special relationship” between the U.S. and the U.K., Spicer backtracked.

“No, no, it has not been raised,” Spicer said. “But I do think that, again, we’re not — all we’re doing is literally reading off what other stations and people have reported, and I think that casts into concern some of the activities that may have occurred during the ’16 election. We’re not casting judgment on that. I think the idea is to say that if these organizations, these individuals came to these conclusions, they merit looking into.”

The claim is all the more incendiary given the close intelligence-sharing relationship between the two countries. The U.S. and the U.K., along with Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, form the Five Eyes — a decades-old intelligence cooperative in which the countries share much of their signals intelligence and pledge not to spy on each another.

A spokesperson for British Prime Minister Theresa May told The Independent that the White House would not float the claims again. “We’ve made clear to the Administration that these claims are ridiculous and they should be ignored and we’ve received assurances they won’t be repeated.”

President Trump Fires 46 Federal Prosecutors At The ‘Justice’ Department

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration moved on Friday to sweep away most of the remaining vestiges of Obama administration prosecutors at the Justice Department, ordering 46 holdover United States attorneys to tender their resignations immediately — including Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan.

The firings were a surprise — especially for Mr. Bharara, who has a reputation for prosecuting public corruption cases and for investigating insider trading. In November, Mr. Bharara met with then President-elect Donald J. Trump at Trump Tower in Manhattan and told reporters afterward that both Mr. Trump and Jeff Sessions, who is now the attorney general, had asked him about staying on, which the prosecutor said he expected to do.

But on Friday, Mr. Bharara was among federal prosecutors who received a call from Dana Boente, the acting deputy attorney general, instructing him to resign, according to a person familiar with the matter. As of Friday evening, though some of the prosecutors had publicly announced their resignations, Mr. Bharara had not. A spokesman for Mr. Bharara declined to comment.

Sarah Isgur Flores, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said in an email that all remaining holdover United States attorneys had been asked to resign, leaving their deputy United States attorneys, who are career officials, in place in an acting capacity.

Continue reading the main story

The abrupt order came after two weeks of increasing calls from Mr. Trump’s allies outside the government to oust appointees from President Barack Obama’s administration. Mr. Trump has been angered by a series of reports based on leaked information from a sprawling bureaucracy, as well as from his own West Wing.

Several officials said the firings had been planned before Friday.

But the calls from the acting deputy attorney general arose a day after Sean Hannity, the Fox News commentator who is a strong supporter of President Trump, said on his evening show that Mr. Trump needed to “purge” Obama holdovers from the federal government. Mr. Hannity portrayed them as “saboteurs” from the “deep state” who were leaking secrets to hurt Mr. Trump. It also came the same week that government watchdogs wrote to Mr. Bharara and urged him to investigate whether Mr. Trump had violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which bars federal officials from taking payments from foreign governments.

In Mr. Hannity’s monologue, he highlighted the fact that the Clinton administration had told all 93 United States attorneys to resign soon after he took office in 1993, and that “nobody blinked an eye,” but he said it became a scandal when the George W. Bush administration fired several top prosecutors midway through his second term.

Several Democratic members of Congress said they only heard that the United States attorneys from their states were being immediately let go shortly before the Friday afternoon statement from the Justice Department. One senator, speaking on the condition of anonymity to protect the identity of the United States attorney in that state, said that an Obama-appointed prosecutor had been instructed to vacate the office by the end of the day.

Although it was not clear whether all were given the same instructions, that United States attorney was not the only one told to clear out by the close of business. The abrupt nature of the dismissals distinguished Mr. Trump’s mass firing from Mr. Clinton’s, because the prosecutors in 1993 were not summarily told to clear out their offices.

Michael D. McKay, who was the United States attorney in Seattle under the George Bush administration, recalled that even though he had already made plans to leave, he nevertheless stayed on for about three weeks beyond a request by then-Attorney General Janet Reno for all of the holdover prosecutors to resign. He also recalled at least one colleague who was in the midst of a major investigation and was kept on to finish it.

“I’m confident it wasn’t on the same day,” he said, adding: “While there was a wholesale ‘Good to see you, thanks for your service, and now please leave,’ people were kept on on a case-by-case basis depending on the situation.”

Two United States attorneys survived the firings: Mr. Boente, the top prosecutor for the Eastern District of Virginia, who is serving as acting deputy attorney general, and Rod Rosenstein, the top prosecutor in Baltimore, whom Mr. Trump has nominated to be deputy attorney general.

“The president called Dana Boente and Rod Rosenstein tonight to inform them that he has declined to accept their resignation, and they will remain in their current positions,” said Peter Carr, a Justice Department spokesman.

It remains possible that Mr. Trump and Mr. Sessions could put others on that list later.

It is not unusual for a new president to replace United States attorneys appointed by a predecessor, especially when there has been a change in which party controls the White House.

Still, other presidents have done it gradually in order to minimize disruption, giving those asked to resign more time to make the transition while keeping some inherited prosecutors in place, as it had appeared Mr. Trump would do with Mr. Bharara. Mr. Obama, for example, kept Mr. Rosenstein, who had been appointed by George W. Bush.

The abrupt mass firing appeared to be a change in plans for the administration, according to a statement by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“In January, I met with Vice President Pence and White House Counsel Donald McGahn and asked specifically whether all U.S. attorneys would be fired at once,” she said. “Mr. McGahn told me that the transition would be done in an orderly fashion to preserve continuity. Clearly this is not the case. I’m very concerned about the effect of this sudden and unexpected decision on federal law enforcement.”

Still, the cases the various federal prosecutors were overseeing will continue, with their career deputies becoming acting United States attorneys in their place for the time being.

Mr. Bharara has been among the highest-profile United States attorneys, with a purview that includes Wall Street and public corruption prosecutions, including of both Democratic and Republican officials and other influential figures.

His office, for example, has prosecuted top police officials in New York and the powerful leader of the city correction officers’ union; they have pleaded not guilty. It is preparing to try a major public corruption case involving former aides and associates of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and is looking into allegations of pay-for-play around Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York.

But Mr. Bharara is also closely associated with the Senate minority leader, Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York. Mr. Bharara was formerly a counsel to Mr. Schumer, who pushed Mr. Obama to nominate Mr. Bharara to be the top federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York.

At the time of the November meeting at Trump Tower, Mr. Schumer was saying publicly that Democrats should try to find common ground and work with the president-elect. But relations between Mr. Trump and Mr. Schumer have since soured.

Mr. Trump has called Mr. Schumer the Democrats’ “head clown” and accused him of shedding “fake tears” over the president’s efforts to bar refugees from entering the United States.

For his part, Mr. Schumer has called for an independent investigation into contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and demanded that Mr. Sessions resign for having testified that he had no contacts with Russians even though he had met with the Russian ambassador.

The White House officials ascribed the reversal over Mr. Bharara as emblematic of a chaotic transition process. One official said it was tied to Mr. Trump’s belief in November that he and Mr. Schumer would be able to work together.

Continue reading the main story

EXCLUSIVE: Shadowy Iranian Republican Guard General visits Moscow, violating Sanctions

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FOX NEWS AND ‘OUTBRAIN’)

IRAN

EXCLUSIVE: Shadowy Iranian general visits Moscow, violating sanctions

A shadowy Iranian general responsible for the deaths of nearly 500 Americans traveled to Moscow Wednesday to meet with high-ranking Russian officials — a trip that violated multiple United Nations resolutions forbidding him from leaving his country, multiple western intelligence officials with direct knowledge of the visit told Fox News.

RUSSIAN SPY SHIP SPOTTED CLOSER TO USA, NEAR NAVY SUBMARINE BASE

Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani arrived in Terminal A of Vnukovo airport outside Moscow on Feb. 14 on Mahan Air WD084 at 12:13 p.m. local time and was scheduled to remain in Russia for a few days for meetings, officials said.

Soleimani is visiting Moscow to express his displeasure with the Russian government over their relationship with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, mainly regarding weapons deals and strengthening economic ties, sources told Fox News.

MIDEAST PEACE MAY NOT COME FROM TWO-STATE SOLUTION, WHITE HOUSE SAYS

The CIA would not immediately answer a request for comment. A State Department spokesman said he was unaware of the visit.

This is Soleimani’s third trip to Moscow following visits in April and July last year. Soleimani is thought to be the mastermind behind Iran’s proxy war in Syria in order to prop up the Assad regime. Soleimani met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu days after the Iranian nuclear deal was agreed to in Vienna. Iran has been a key ally along with Russia in Syria, working together to shore up support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against opposition fighters, some of whom are backed by the United States.

The Quds Force, which Soleimani heads, is the special operations wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, responsible for supporting terrorist proxy forces across the Middle East. Soleimani reports directly to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Soleimani was first designated a terrorist and sanctioned by the U.S. in 2005 for his role as a supporter of terrorism. In October 2011, the U.S. Treasury Department tied Soleimani to the failed Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States at a popular restaurant in Washington, D.C.

Testifying before Congress last year, former Secretary of State John Kerry said Soleimani and the Quds Force would continue to face sanctions even after some UN sanctions were lifted on Iran following the landmark nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers, including the United States.

UN Resolution 1747 prohibits Soleimani to travel, and any country that lets him transit or travel is also defying sanctions. Russia is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and would be a aware of the restrictions against meeting him.

During his confirmation hearing before Congress in 2015, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford said many Americans were killed by Iranian-backed forces under the command of Soleimani.

“The number has been recently quoted as about 500. We weren’t always able to attribute the casualties we had to Iranian activity, although many times we suspected it was Iranian activity even though we didn’t necessarily have the forensics to support that,” Dunford told lawmakers.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry said five days after Soleimani’s Moscow visit that he would never receive sanctions relief.

“Under the United States’s initiative, Qassem Soleimani will never be relieved of any sanctions,” Kerry said.

Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Department producer for Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews

Jerry Sandusky’s son Jeffrey arrested on child sex charges

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FOX NEWS)

Jerry Sandusky’s son Jeffrey arrested on child sex charges

by Joe Millitzer

BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) _ One of Jerry Sandusky’s sons faces multiple charges of sexual offenses involving children, more than five years after the former Penn State assistant coach was himself first arrested.

Court records filed Monday say 41-year-old Jeffrey S. Sandusky was charged with 14 counts, including criminal solicitation and corruption of minors.

The online court docket says Jeffrey Sandusky was arraigned Monday and bail was set at $200,000. He’s currently in the Centre County Correctional Facility in Pennsylvania.

Jeffrey Sandusky’s lawyer declined to comment on the allegations. The district attorney’s office says it will release a statement Monday.

WTAJ-TV says state police accuse him of sending inappropriate texts to a victim and asking for naked photos.

Jerry Sandusky is serving a lengthy prison sentence for sexual abuse of 10 boys.

Joe Millitzer | February 13, 2017 at 2:14 pm | Categories: News | URL: http://wp.me/p1ZRlz-3MYc

California Parole Board Recommends Parole For Charles Manson

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FOX NEWS)

SACRAMENTO, California  — A state panel has recommended paroling a former follower of cult leader Charles Manson after California governors blocked four previous recommendations for his release.

The 31st parole hearing for 74-year-old Bruce Davis was held Wednesday, February 1st at the California Men’s Colony at San Luis Abispo.

Gov. Jerry Brown will have the final say on whether Davis is released.

Davis is serving a life sentence for the 1969 slayings of musician Gary Hinman and stuntman Donald “Shorty” Shea.

He was not involved in the more notorious killings of actress Sharon Tate and six others by the Manson “family.”

Parole panels have decided before that Davis is no longer a public safety risk only to see governors — who have the final say on release — block his parole.

Benefits of Indian cash overhaul elusive as deadline passes

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FOX NEWS)

THE AMERICAS

Benefits of Indian cash overhaul elusive as deadline passes

  • In this Thursday, Dec. 29, 2016 photo, an Indian woman, who had come to deposit money, argues with a bank officer in New Delhi, India. On Nov. 8, India yanked most of its currency bills from circulation without warning, delivering a jolt to the country’s high-performing economy and leaving countless citizens scrambling for cash. Still, as Friday’s deadline for depositing old 500- and 1,000-rupee notes draws to a close, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has called the demonetization drive a great success in drawing out tax dodgers and eliminating graft. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

    In this Thursday, Dec. 29, 2016 photo, an Indian woman, who had come to deposit money, argues with a bank officer in New Delhi, India. On Nov. 8, India yanked most of its currency bills from circulation without warning, delivering a jolt to the country’s high-performing economy and leaving countless citizens scrambling for cash. Still, as Friday’s deadline for depositing old 500- and 1,000-rupee notes draws to a close, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has called the demonetization drive a great success in drawing out tax dodgers and eliminating graft. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)  (The Associated Press)

Fifty days ago, India yanked most of its currency from circulation without warning, jolting the economy and leaving most citizens scrambling for cash. As the deadline for exchanging the devalued 500- and 1,000-rupee notes for new ones hits Friday, many Indians are still stuck waiting in long bank lines.

Empty ATMs and ever-changing rules are preventing people from withdrawing money, and many small, cash-reliant businesses from cinemas to neighborhood grocery stores are suffering huge losses or going under.

Despite those problems, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says his Nov. 8 demonetization decree has succeeded in uncovering tax evasion and cracking down on graft. The Indian government is urging patience, insisting it’s playing a long game that will eventually modernize Indian society and benefit the poor.

So far, despite the widespread inconvenience and costs, most of the country’s 1.25 billion citizens appear to be taking Modi’s word for it.

Here are a few things to know about India’s massive cash overhaul:

___

HARDSHIP FOR THE POOR

Modi’s announcement that 500 and 1,000 rupee bills — making up 86 percent of India’s currency — were no longer legal tender has posed an enormous hardship for millions of people who use cash for everything from salaries to cellphone charges.

Almost immediately, serpentine lines appeared at banks and ATMs as people waited hours to deposit or exchange old currency notes for new bills. Since authorities only began printing the new bills after the policy was announced, demand vastly exceeds supply and cash machines often run dry. Daily commerce in essentials including food, medicine and transportation screeched almost to a halt.

Worst affected were the country’s hundreds of millions of farmers, produce vendors, small shop owners and daily-wage laborers who usually are paid in cash at the end of a day’s work. Many lost their jobs as small businesses shut down, compounding their poverty.

Pankaj Aggarwal, owner of a clothing shop in the Old Delhi neighborhood of Chandni Chowk says his sales crashed by 70 percent.

“You can imagine what our business is like now. It will be some time before our sales normalize,” he said.

Modi appears to have succeeded in promoting the cash overhaul as a “pro-poor” policy, tapping into deep anger among the have-nots toward wealthy elites.

“The first two months have been so bad for us, we don’t even have enough money to buy food,” said daily wage laborer Neeraj Mishra, 35. “Overall, I think Modi has done some good. People with a lot of money are the ones who have been troubled. I don’t have enough cash for it to bother me much.”

Political scientist Sreeram Chaulia, dean of the Jindal School of International Affairs in New Delhi, describes the strategy as “classic populism.”

“Some people are outraged, but are hesitant to come out and say it because they don’t want to be branded as anti-national or self-centered,” he said.

___

A BRUISED ECONOMY

The wide impact of the demonetization won’t be known until the government issues its next quarterly GDP figures in February, but the Reserve Bank of India already has shaved half a percent from this year’s GDP growth forecast, to 7.1 percent.

Since domestic commerce drives most economic activity, analysts have expressed alarm over the scale of economic and social disruption and are warning a contraction is likely in coming quarters.

“The countless unpredictable consequences that will continue to show in the coming weeks and months mean that it is, in effect, a huge gamble,” said Jan Zalewski, an Asia expert with the Britain-based risk assessment firm Verisk Maplecroft. “Inflicting such huge costs for what is an uncertain outcome is problematic.”

Real estate, tourism, transportation and gold and gems have been hit the hardest, along with informal sectors that rely mostly on cash.

Prices are forecast to rise since the cash crunch is pinching supplies of all sorts of goods.

The country’s banks, however, are seeing banner business. The central bank said old notes worth 13 trillion rupees ($191 billion) had been deposited as of Dec. 10, with many more expected by Friday’s deadline.

That should improve bank liquidity and in turn encourage more lending to boost economic growth.

___

MIXED MESSAGES, CHAOTIC RULES

The Finance Ministry and central bank have issued at least 60 different directives, some of them contradictory, about such issues as how much money can be withdrawn from bank accounts and which documents are needed for depositing old cash. The mixed messages have compounded the overall chaos and shaken investors’ confidence.

“There appears to be less trust in many institutions, including the Reserve Bank and other banks. That is one important behavioral change that has been ushered in,” said Mihir Sharma, senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi based think tank.

Financial experts are baffled about how to evaluate the move.

“One of the major problems with the demonetization move is that success is so difficult to measure,” Zalewski said. “In and of itself, it can’t end black money, stop terrorism funding and the counterfeiting of notes.”

___

NEW BILLS, OLD HABITS

The idea that swapping old currency notes for new ones would wipe out tax evasion has already been proven naive. Over the last seven weeks, Indian income tax authorities uncovered more than 32 billion rupees ($477 million) in undeclared wealth held in new notes, foreign currency, gold and other commodities.

The Finance Ministry found enormous stashes of new currency bills secreted away by corrupt bank managers. Axis Bank’s CEO Shikha Sharma said she was “embarrassed and upset” after it was found managers at the bank had used the stolen funds to fake accounts and launder customers’ untaxed savings for a premium.

___

A GLOBAL TREND?

A month after Modi scrapped the high-denomination notes, Venezuela’s president announced that the 100-bolivar notes that account for more than three-quarters of the country’s cash would be taken out of circulation.

Skyrocketing inflation had taken the value of the Venezuelan notes to 2 U.S. cents from 10 cents in the past year.

But while India’s cash overhaul has been relatively peaceful, Venezuela’s was not.

When no new bolivar notes appeared to replace the old ones, riots and looting erupted in towns across Venezuela, whose economy was already in shambles. Hundreds of grocery stores were damaged or destroyed. Ultimately, the government extended use of the old 100-bolivar notes until Jan. 2.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro declared the abrupt cash overhaul an economic triumph, claiming people were racing to deposit the old notes into banks. He did not say how much was deposited.

In Pakistan, opposition lawmakers passed a resolution last week calling for the withdrawal of the country’s highest-denomination note from circulation. The government rejected that move, saying there was no need to discontinue the country’s 5,000-rupee note, worth about $48.

“The very notion of cancellation of such convenience in transactions is preposterous and unequivocally denied,” the Finance Ministry said in a statement.

___

Associated Press writers Fabiola Sanchez in Caracas and Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report.

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Follow Katy Daigle and Nirmala George at http://www.twitter.com/katydaigle and http://www.twitter.com/NirmalaGeorge1

China’s “Head Of Religious Affairs” Nor President Jinping Have Any Clue What Religion Is

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FOX NEWS AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

China: Willing to have talks with Vatican but Catholics must be patriots

China’s head of religious affairs said that Beijing is willing to have constructive dialogue with the Vatican but stressed that Catholics should “hold up high the flag of patriotism” and adapt Catholicism to Chinese society.

Wang Zuo’an, the director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, made the remarks Tuesday at a meeting of China’s official Catholic Church, which includes bishops, priests and lay Catholics, state media reported.

Beijing insists that the party-controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association has the authority to appoint Chinese bishops, a right that the Holy See says belongs to the pope alone. This dispute over bishop nominations is the most vexing stumbling block preventing the re-establishment of diplomatic relations.

China severed relations with the Holy See in 1951 after the Communists took over, and the officially atheistic government closed churches and imprisoned priests, some for decades. Worship is officially allowed only in state-authorized churches outside the pope’s authority, although many of China’s estimated 12 million Catholics are thought to attend underground churches.

Wang said the Chinese government hoped that the Vatican can adopt a flexible and pragmatic attitude, and take concrete actions to create favorable conditions for improving relations, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. No details were given of what actions Beijing expects.

The ruling Communist Party has long feared that opposition to its rule could be spread by religious and other civic groups outside its control. In May last year, President Xi Jinping called for religions to adapt to Chinese society, which he termed the “sinicization of religion.”

On Tuesday, Wang stressed the importance of patriotism within religion and “pushing ahead with the sinicization of Catholicism.”

Pope Francis said earlier this year that Beijing and the Vatican have resumed working groups on the naming of bishops issue and that he is “optimistic” for an agreement, but that it will take time.

More on this…

  • Pope in Christmas speech blasts Vatican resistance to reform

  • Vatican upset China ordination marred by illegitimate bishop

  • Female relatives of jailed Venezuelan dissidents chain themselves in front of Vatican

Just last week, the Vatican said it was saddened that the ordination of two new Chinese bishops was marred by the presence of a bishop ordained without the pope’s consent.

It also said it was awaiting the outcome of this week’s meeting of the Chinese Catholic Church and hoped it would give Catholics in China confidence in the Vatican-China dialogue.

Idiotic John Kerry And His Idiotic Ideas About Israel And Islamic Terrorism

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FOX NEWS)

After UN veto, Kerry suggests Israel’s West Bank foray spawning ‘terrorism’

Secretary of State John Kerry is defending the Obama administration’s decision to effectively allow the United Nations to condemn Israeli for attempting to build more settlements in the disputed West Bank, saying the “unprecedented” effort has spawned terrorism and violence that jeopardizes lasting peace in the region.

The United States on Friday abstained from a U.N. Security Council vote to adopt a resolution condemning the Israel’s settlement expansion, which allowed for the measure’s passage and disapproval from incoming Republican President Donald Trump.

“Things will be different after Jan. 20,” Trump tweeted minutes after the vote.

Kerry said Israel’s continued and stepped-up attempt to build more settlements, or communities, in the region, which includes East Jerusalem, risks the so-called “two-state” solution between Israelis and the Palestinians, who also lay claim to the region.

“The United States acted with one primary objective in mind: to preserve the possibility of the two state solution, which every U.S. administration for decades has agreed is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, Kerry said Friday. “Two states is the only way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living in peace and security with its neighbors, and freedom and dignity for the Palestinian people.”

He also said the administration does not agree with “every aspect” of the resolution but that it “rightly condemns violence” and calls on both sides to take constructive steps to reverse current trends and advance the prospects for a two state solution.”

The resolution was put forward by four nations a day after Egypt withdrew it Thursday under pressure from Israel Trump.

The U.S. not vetoing the measure is being considered a snub to the country’s key Middle Eastern ally and attributed to outgoing Democratic President Obama, who has had chilly relations with Israel throughout his eight-year tenure.

Reaction from U.S. Republicans and Jewish leaders around the world was swift and sharp.

“It was to be expected that Israel’s greatest ally would act in accordance with the values that we share and that they would have vetoed this disgraceful resolution,” said Israel’s Ambassador Danny Danon. “I have no doubt that the new U.S. administration and the incoming UN Secretary General will usher in a new era in terms of the UN’s relationship with Israel.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., blasted the administration for undermining America’s historic Middle East ally.

“This is absolutely shameful,” Ryan said. “Today’s vote is a blow to peace that sets a dangerous precedent for further diplomatic efforts to isolate and demonize Israel.”

Former GOP presidential candidate and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said called the administration’s move “a big mistake.”

Anne Bayefsky, director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust and president of Human Rights Voices, said the contention that settlements, and not Palestinian terrorism, is the obstacle to peace is false.

“This UN resolution represents the Big Lie of modern anti-Semitism,” Bayefsky said. “Palestinians’ backers on the Council, New Zealand and Malaysia, made today’s slander clear, claiming Jews living peaceful, productive lives on Arab-claimed land was the ‘single biggest threat to peace’ and “primary threat to a two-state solution.’

“Seven decades of violent Palestinian rejection of a Jewish state prove otherwise.”

The measure was adopted with 14 votes in favor, to a round of applause, after U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power abstained. It is the first resolution the Security Council has adopted on Israel and the Palestinians in nearly eight years.

Powers said the U.S. used its veto power in 2007 on a similar matter but that “circumstances have (since) changed dramatically.”

“One cannot simultaneously champion Israeli settlements and champion a viable two-state solution,” she said. “One has to make a choice.”

The Obama White House, under heavy pressure from the Israeli government and its supporters to veto the resolution, kept everyone guessing until the vote whether it would stop shielding Israel from council resolutions and permit it to pass by abstaining.

After the vote, White House officials acknowledged on a conference that Obama made the decision himself after several rounds of discussions with top administration officials.

Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said afterward that the U.S. has only one president at a time.

Israel believes it has the right to expand settlements in the disputed territories as populations within them expand. Palestinians do not believe the settlements should exist at all, and world condemnation of expansion is seen as a possible first in that direction.

The resolution calls on Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activity in occupied territories, including East Jerusalem.” And it repeated the longstanding U.N. position that all settlements on land Israel conquered in 1967 are illegal under international law.

A senior Israeli official accused the U.S. of a “shameful move” after learning that it did not intend to veto the text, the BBC reported.

As one the council five permanent members of the council, the U.S. has veto power and has used it to sheltered Israel from condemnatory resolutions. But the Obama administration has long made clear its opposition to Israeli settlement-building in occupied territory, even though it gives Israel tens of billions annually in assistance.

“This last minute political maneuvering is shameful,” said Ric Grenell, former spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the U.N. and a Fox News contributor. “Today’s abstention by the Obama administration will make it harder to find a peaceful solution because it imposes outside positions on Israel without letting them negotiate directly.”

Fox News’ Eric Linton and Jonathan Wachtel contributed to this report.

North Korea: Pathetic Kim Jong-Un Holding American Student Otto Warmbier For Ransom!

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FOX NEWS)

American student Otto Warmbier

On the second day of 2016, Otto Warmbier was minutes away from boarding a plane back to America when armed security officers reportedly dragged him out of Pyongyang airport and into a yearlong nightmare that has left his loved ones and even the U.S. government powerless to save him.

Like most news out of North Korea, a lot about what occurred in the airport on Jan. 2, 2016 remains a mystery. One witness remembered a commotion as an armed official yelled at the 21-year-old University of Virginia undergraduate student from Ohio and had him hauled out of the terminal. Hours later, the rogue dictatorship issued a vague update: A tourist had been “caught committing a hostile act against the state.”

The legal proceedings that followed were just as vague. Prosecutors charged that Warmbier was caught stealing a political sign and committed “crimes against the state.” He was given a one-hour trial in March at which the government presented fingerprints, CCTV footage and pictures of a political banner to make its case against the American.

“I beg that you see how I am only human,” Warmbier begged at trial. “And how I have made the biggest mistake of my life.”

Despite his pleas, Warmbier was convicted, and sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor. In a post-trial video released to the world, Warmbier, under obvious duress, praised his captors for his treatment and for handling of the case “fair and square.”

Little is known about Warmbier’s fate over the last year, and critics say the Obama administration has not done enough to bring the American home.

In recent years, several U.S. citizens have been held on trumped-up charges for varying periods of time by the current regime of Kim Jong Un, as well as that of his father, Kim Jong Il. Their release has typically been won by pledges of aid or diplomatic gestures from American dignitaries. Former President Bill Clinton journeyed to the Hermit Kingdom in 2009 in a successful bid to convince the late Kim Jong Il to release of Current TV journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling, who had been captured after straying across the border from China and held prisoner for five months.

The younger Kim is less predictable, and the U.S. has no formal diplomatic relations with North Korea. Kim Jung Un, the third generation of his family to lead the impoverished and belligerent nation, routinely issues threats against the U.S., launches missiles to provoke South Korea and Japan, executes top military officials and, occasionally, seizes Western prisoners. Although they are subjected to what passes for judicial procedures, they are for all intents and purposes, hostages.

In addition to Warmbier, it is believed that Pyongyang is holding Kim Dong-chul, 62, a naturalized U.S. citizen and a Canadian. Like Warmbier, he was charged with spying.

Gordon Chang, an expert on Asia and author of “The Coming Collapse of China,” said autocratic regimes, like the one in Pyongyang, are famous for their insecurities and treat any slight against its government as an especially serious offense. An Irish national who visited the country told The Independent that he was told “constantly that the smallest thing was considered a hostile attack.

“I bought lots of magazines and books there, and we were told not to fold them in a way that creased Kim Jong-un’s face,” he recalled.

Chang believes the North Koreans are taking reasonably good care of Warmbier, but the student likely feels forgotten.

“I assume he feels isolated,” Chang said. “He’s likely only reading propaganda and feels abandoned by the outside world.”

Warmbier’s family, including his father, Fred, did not respond to requests for comment, perhaps out of concern that publicity could anger Warmbier’s captors or upset back-channel efforts by the State Department or private parties to win his release. The U.S. will often tell these families to avoid talking to the media so it can better control the situation, Chang said.

“I agree with that,” he said.

Yet, media attention in the past seemed to work favorably in some cases. Ling and Lee faced 12 years of hard labor for committing hostile acts, yet were freed after five months when a visit from Clinton seemed to provide the rogue regime with the diplomatic legitimacy it craved, at least under the elder Kim, who died in 2011.

Kenneth Bae, a 47-year-old missionary who spent 19 months in prison for evangelizing, was released in 2014 after former NBA star and self-professed pal of Kim Jong-un Dennis Rodman took up his cause. Bae, who worked on a soybean farm and lost 30 pounds during the ordeal, told The New York Times that his interrogators would tell him that nobody in the U.S. cared about him and there were no negotiations.

Friend Trey Lonneman: We need to get Otto back. We must keep him in the public eye as much as we can –TCT @FoxNews

He said he was questioned “from 8 in the morning until 10 or 11 o’clock at night, every day for four weeks,” yet his treatment was better than that of North Korean felons.

Bae told FoxNews.com that he prays daily for American prisoners’ release from North Korea.

Former U.S. ambassador to the UN and ex-New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, founder of the nonprofit Richardson Center for Global Engagement, told Fox News that the progress in getting Warmbier back has been slow but said North Koreans accepted a delegation from his foundation in September. He said the White House has been supportive of his group’s efforts.

“We’re trying to do this on a humanitarian basis,” Richardson told Fox News, “not a government-to-government basis.”

Communicating with North Korea has long been more challenging under the younger Kim.

“There’s just silence,” he said. “There’s nothing coming back.”

Julia Mason, a State Department spokeswoman, told FoxNews.com a statement that the administration is aware of the situation, and “now that Mr. Warmbier has gone through this criminal process, we urge the DPRK to pardon him and grant him special amnesty and immediate release on humanitarian grounds.”

In November, the Associated Press reported that a North Korean Foreign Ministry official met with the Swedish ambassador to talk about access to Canadian Christian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim, who was sentenced to life in prison with hard labor, according to Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency.

The Swedish ambassador used the meeting to also talk about the Americans and was reportedly told Pyongyang treats them as war prisoners, possibly in light of U.S. sanctions on the country.

John Bolton, a Fox News contributor and the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson that North Korea keeps a close eye on U.S. relationships around the world. It likely made note of the Obama administrations clandestine payments to Iran earlier this year which coincided with the release of four Americans held by Tehran on bogus charges.

“When Obama pays $1.7 billion in ransom for four people being held hostage in Iran, obviously the North Koreans see this as a bargaining chip as well,” he said.

Edmund DeMarche is a news editor for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @EDeMarche.

Donald Trump Is Using 23 Million People In Taiwan As A Trade Bargaining Ploy With China?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Why Donald Trump Really Shouldn’t Play Games with China Over Taiwan

The U.S. President-elect has said the “One China” policy was up for negotiation and dependent on what Beijing does for the U.S. in return

East Asian geopolitics is a tapestry of fictions. Beijing insists Taiwan is part of China, despite the island of 23 million being self-governing for over half-a-century. The constitution of Taiwan — officially called the Republic of China, a legacy of the routed Nationalists (KMT) flight across the Strait in 1949 following China’s civil war — still claims dominion of all of the Chinese mainland and even Mongolia. The U.S. concedes Taiwan is part of China, having broken off diplomatic relations one China policy

with Taipei in 1979, yet is treaty-obliged to sell the island the weapons it uses to protect itself from Beijing.

One can have sympathy for Donald Trump not wanting to partake in such a charade, which is commonly known as the “One China” principle. The U.S. President-elect had the backing of many people in Taiwan when on Dec. 2 he accepted a phone call from its President, Tsai Ing-wen. Owing to “One China,” which was negotiated by an earlier KMT government in Taiwan, it was the first direct contact between the leaders of Taiwan and the U.S for almost four decades. When Beijing cried foul, Trump sent a series of unrepentant tweets, culminating with an interview on Fox on Sunday during which he said “One China” was up for negotiation and dependent on what Beijing does for the U.S. in return.

Read More: ‘Trump Truly Is a Mad Dog’: How Chinese Social Media Melted After the Taiwan Call

“Trump’s taking a more realpolitik approach, saying there are no sacred cows, we won’t be pushed around and everything is on the table,” says Prof. Nick Bisley, an Asia expert at Australia’s La Trobe University.

But Trump should be wary of wielding realpolitik in this land of fictions. Beijing regularly cites the “Taiwan question” as one of its “core interests,” and the topic is toxic even among otherwise politically inert Chinese. On Wednesday, An Fengshan, a spokesman for China’s policy-making Taiwan Affairs Office, said, “peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait will be seriously impacted” if the U.S. wavers on “One China.”

For Taiwan, the “One China” policy is partly a millstone, precluding the island from a seat at the U.N. or from joining potentially lucrative free trade groupings. But conversely, the agreement — otherwise known as the “1992 Consensus” — has allowed peaceful ties to flourish across a previously truculent Strait. Today, tourists and exchange students flock in both directions and 40% of Taiwan’s exports go to the mainland. Taiwan has a lot to gain from official recognition but even more to lose. “In the short term the [Taiwan] government seems to be very excited about [Trump addressing ‘One China’],” says Prof. Tang Shaocheng, an international relations expert at Taiwan’s National Chengchi University. “But the consequences — the reaction from Beijing — is still unpredictable.”

Donald Trump Angers China With Historic Phone Call to Taiwan’s President
Trump went where no U.S. commander-in-chief had gone since diplomatic relations were restored with China in 1979 — by speaking directly to the President of Taiwan, the island-state of 23 million that is essentially an independent country.

Taiwan would bear the brunt of a metastasizing Sino-U.S. relationship, though Trump has never mentioned what the island’s citizens desire during his bating of the Chinese leadership. Instead, the President-elect has treated the case like a business deal, jostling for the smallest advantage, while needling the world’s second largest economy over trade tariffs and alleged currency manipulation. “Trump is trying to get some more bargaining chips to use later with Beijing,” adds Tang. “Taiwan is just a leverage point for Trump.” And Trump’s actions elsewhere are recasting the rules of the game and further imperiling the island’s people.

Read More: Trump’s Doubting of ‘One China’ Has Sparked Both Hope and Fear in Taiwan

The other headline of Trump’s nascent foreign policy is warming ties with Russia. Trump repeatedly praised President Vladmir Putin during his presidential campaign, flying in the face of the international condemnation prompted by Moscow’s 2014 annexing of the Crimea, not to mention its steadfast support for Syrian President Bashar Assad. On Wednesday, Trump named his candidate for Secretary of State: Rex Tillerson, the ExxonMobil chief with a long history of deals with the Kremlin, and who was awarded the Russian Order of Friendship in 2013. The nod raised eyebrows even within Trump’s own party.

“I don’t know what Mr. Tillerson’s relationship with Vladimir Putin was,” Sen. John McCain told Fox News on Saturday. “But I’ll tell you it is a matter of concern to me.”

What exactly Trump hopes to gain from courting Putin is unclear. The real estate mogul may have been elected on promises to put “America first,” but Putin is a Russian nationalist of the deepest dye and unlikely to yield much of consequence to Washington. One theory is that Trump is maneuvering for a “reverse Nixon” strategy: teaming up with Moscow to isolate Beijing, in a mirror of U.S. policy to counter the Soviet Union in the 1970s. However, that is unlikely to bear fruit. According to Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center think-tank, Beijing and Moscow have never been as close as they are today. “I would call them a ‘détente’ state of relations,” says Trenin. “That’s somewhere between a strategic partnership and a full-fledged alliance.”

Read More: China Says Donald Trump’s Suggestion of Closer U.S.-Taiwan Ties Are ‘Out of the Question’

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s seminal One Belt, One Road economic strategy — a rekindling of the iconic land and maritime Silk Road though infrastructure and development projects — is dependent on rosy relations with Russia and particularly Central Asia, which is largely beholden to the Kremlin. Today, Russia is the world’s top oil exporter — accounting for 70% of all national exports — and its top customer is China, which bought 22 million tons in the first half of this year. Squabbles over disputed territory in Central Asia have been solved with surprising prudence and a raft of pipeline and other infrastructure deals have been struck. “Relations are robust and I can only see them getting stronger,” says Trenin.

By contrast, the U.S. has little to offer Russia. But Trump’s fawning of Putin does have an effect. Trump announced Tillerson’s appointment just as Assad’s Russian-backed troops retook Aleppo, displacing thousands and reportedly slaughtering scores of innocents. But Beijing is most acutely aware that the Kremlin suffered few repercussion from its seizing of Crimea, other than economic sanctions it shrugged aside (and Trump could soon lift them at a stoke of his pen.) If Trump wants to put ethics aside and talk realpolitik: What would the U.S. do if China decided to retake Taiwan?

Read More: Donald Trump Details Plan to Rewrite Global Trade Rules

To rephrase: What could it do? The U.S. military is stronger that China’s overall, though a war in China’s coastal waters would be bloody and impossible to win. The Philippines, traditionally America’s staunchest ally, has become antagonistic with Washington and chummy with China since new President Rodrigo Duterte took office. There are also resurgent calls to removed U.S. troops from bases in South Korea and Japan, who both list China as their largest trading partners. Beijing has built islands — dubbed unsinkable aircraft carriers — in the South China Sea, which new satellite images indicate contain significant weaponry. Not to forget that Trump campaigned on drawing down commitments on costly wars overseas.

“Xi is a tough guy and has shown unprecedented tolerance for Trump’s arrogance,” says Prof. Shi Yinhong, director of the Center on American Studies at Beijing’s Renmin University. “But if Trump still wants to mess with China’s core interests after he becomes President, Sino-U.S. ties will suffer the greatest damage since [the resumption of diplomatic relations]. China will not compromise.”

Trump thinks he is being clever by shaking up the status quo in East Asia, but there is a reason why all six preceding U.S. Presidents have firmly stuck to the convenient fiction of “One China.” In a game of true realpolitik when everything is on the table, China knows exactly what it wants — and it also now knows what it can probably get away with.

—With reporting by Zhang Chi / Beijing

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