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In reelection bid, Trump pushes Afghan troop withdrawal to meet campaign promise

TrumpGhaniTroops
© Alex Brandon/AP
President Donald Trump with Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani while addressing members of the military at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.
As negotiators for the U.S.-backed Afghan government and the Taliban militants hold historic peace talks in Qatar, few are expecting a deal to be easy or even successful.

The two sides -- who have been at war for nearly two decades and continue to kill each other even during the Doha negotiations -- are far apart on key issues like women's rights and the implementation of Shari'a law as they seek to reach a power-sharing agreement and permanent cease-fire.

But those difficulties are not preventing President Donald Trump from pushing for the removal of more U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the November 3 election as he seeks to end the United States' longest war.

With just weeks to go in a tight reelection bid against Democratic candidate Joe Biden, Trump is seeking to score points by fulfilling -- though not entirely -- a campaign promise to bring U.S. troops home from the "endless wars" in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Some military officials, members of Congress, and analysts have expressed concern that a quick withdrawal of U.S. soldiers could lead to the collapse of the Afghan government and hand control of the South Asian country back to the Taliban that U.S.-led forces overthrew in 2001.

"We're going down to 4,000 [troops], we're negotiating right now," Trump said in an interview with Axios on July 28 that was aired on August 3. He added that the total number of troops would be between 4,000 and 5,000 by Election Day.

Nuke

US envoy: Russia agree to arms control deal with no NATO scaleback or US will 'modernize nukes without START'

hypersonic launches
© YouTube/RT/Russia Defense Ministry/US Department of Defense
Test launch of Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle • Test launch of common hypersonic glide body (C-HGB)
The US has made Russia an offer it hopes she won't refuse: accept a new arms control deal including no limits on NATO weapons in Europe, or deal with a modernized American nuclear arsenal on its doorstep.

Following the US' unilateral withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty last year, the 2011 New START treaty remains the only arms control deal in force between Moscow and Washington. However, it's due to expire in February, and negotiations to replace it remain deadlocked.

Now the US says it wants to extend new START by less than five years, and only by a memorandum of intent, rather than a binding treaty, according to Marshall Billingslea, US Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control, who spoke with the Russian daily Kommersant on Sunday.

However, when it comes to hammering out a new deal, Washington has some demands. The first of these demands is that China be made a party to the deal. Russia has no opposition to this in theory, but insists that if China be rolled in, so too should Britain and France.

Dollars

FinCEN leak: Shows indiscriminate money laundering with help of world's largest banks as govt turns blind eye

Bank names
© 1 Reuters/Brendan McDermid /Chris Helgren/Kham
Banks hit by leak of suspicious financial transactions
A massive leak of internal bank documents has supposedly revealed that the world's biggest financial institutions moved more than $2 trillion in suspected dirty money for mobsters, drug cartels, and ponzi schemers.

According to a trove of internal documents obtained by Buzzfeed, some of the world's largest financial institutions allowed criminals to launder money, and profited for doing so. The documents in question are known as Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs), sent to US authorities when bank employees notice suspicious dollar transactions, like large wire transfers from shell companies with no previous relationship.

Once sent to the US Financial Crimes Investigation Network (FinCEN), these reports should trigger investigations. However, according to Buzzfeed, regulators often don't follow them up, and banks sometimes continue to move illicit cash, even after the reports are sent.

Comment: The moving of trillions in 'dirty money' benefit the oligarchs and criminal networks, says the ICIJ report:
Bank of New York Mellon, Deutsche Bank, HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank also continued to 'wave through' suspect payments despite similar promises to government authorities. In the last decade, the banks paid billions of dollars in fines and agreed to deferred prosecution agreements over failures in their anti-money-laundering programs.

Shares of the banks fell sharply in Hong Kong on Monday after the report came out, with HSBC's stock at one point trading at its lowest level since 1995.

JPMorgan told the ICIJ that while the bank was legally prohibited from discussing clients or transactions, it has taken a "leadership role" in pursuing "proactive intelligence-led investigations" and developing "innovative techniques to help combat financial crime."



Rocket

Trump's claims of Russia stealing US tech rebuffed: 'Obama was a schoolboy when we started hypersonic experiments'

Avangard vehicle/Obama
© Sputnik/Russia Defense Ministry/Getty Images/Laura S.L. Kong
Graphic image Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle • Barack Obama, May 1979, Hawaii
The creator of Russia's Avangard hypersonic glider ridiculed Donald Trump for claiming Russia stole the technology from the Obama administration, saying that hypersonic experiments in the country began long before his presidency.

Gerbert Yefremov, 87-year-old renowned engineer, who played a key role in designing Russia's newest missile systems, including Avangard glide vehicle, told Rossiyskaya Gazeta:
"Barack Obama became US President in 2009. Our experiments with these types of things began in the Soviet times, when Obama was still a teenager. He was still a schoolboy when we were already experimenting with hypersonic tech."
The conclusion, which can be drawn from Yefremov's words, is that Russian scientists began developing hypersonic technologies sometime between 1974 and 1981 - when ex-President Obama used to be a teenager.

Comment: See also:


Arrow Up

House Democrats, ramping up effort to thwart Durham probe, call for 'emergency investigation'

DurhamSchiff
© Gulf News/Baseball Watcher/Tennessee Star/CC BY-SA 3.0/KJN
US Attorney John Durham • Adam Schiff
The Democratic chairs of four House committees asked the Justice Department's internal watchdog on Friday to open an "emergency investigation" into U.S. Attorney John Durham's probe of the Obama administration's Trump-related intelligence activities.

Democrats wrote to Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department inspector general:
"We write to ask that you open an emergency investigation into whether U.S. Attorney General William Barr, U.S. Attorney John Durham, and other Department of Justice political appointees are following DOJ's longstanding policy to avoid taking official actions or other steps that could improperly influence the upcoming presidential election."
The letter was signed by Reps. Jerry Nadler, Adam Schiff, Zoe Lofgren and Carolyn Maloney, who lead the House Judiciary, Intelligence, House Administration and Oversight Committees, respectively.

Comment: See also:

'Absolutely terrified" Democrats demand emergency investigation into Durham probe


Eagle

Aaron Maté: That Senate 'collusion' report? It's got no smoking gun ... but it does have a fog machine

warner burr

Above, the Senate intelligence panel's Democratic vice chair, Mark Warner, left, and its since departed GOP chairman, Richard Burr.
Part 1

The declaration that Donald Trump's onetime campaign manager employed a Russian intelligence officer was the headline-grabbing finding of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's fifth and final Russian interference report, released Aug. 18 at the time of the Democratic National Convention.

According to the report, Paul Manafort's 2016 interactions with his longtime associate, Ukraine-born Russian national Konstantin Kilimnik, "represent the single most direct tie between senior Trump Campaign officials and the Russian intelligence services," and amounted to "a grave counterintelligence threat" to the United States.

To hear Trump-Russia conspiracy advocates tell it, Kilimnik was the elusive missing link that proved the Trump campaign's complicity in Russian electoral interference. "Manafort, while he was chairman of the Trump campaign, was secretly communicating with a Russian intelligence officer with whom he discussed campaign strategy and repeatedly shared internal campaign polling data," five of the committee's Democratic members wrote in a pointed addendum. "This is what collusion looks like."


Comment: If you're grandfather looks like Winston Churchill, that doesn't make him Winston Churchill.


But the plain text of the Senate report contains no concrete evidence to support its conclusions. Instead, with a heavy dose of caveats and innuendo, reminiscent of much of the torrent of investigative verbiage in the Russiagate affair, the report goes to great lengths to cast a pall of suspicion around Kilimnik, much of which is either unsupported or contradicted by publicly available information.

Newspaper

US sanctions Iranian Defense Ministry and Venezuela's Maduro, Lavrov says US lost its 'talent' for diplomacy

Rouhani
© Bloomberg | Getty Images
Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s president, pauses whilst speaking during a news conference in Tehran, Iran, on Monday, Oct. 14, 2019.
The Trump administration on Monday announced a slew of fresh sanctions and additional measures in support of Washington's maximum pressure campaign against the Iranian regime.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, flanked by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, said the administration would sanction Iran's Ministry of Defense and Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro for his role in aiding Tehran's weapons programs.


Comment: The attack on Venezuela continues, even following the failed US coup.


"No matter who you are, if you violate the U.N. arms embargo on Iran, you risk sanctions," Pompeo said. "Our actions today are a warning that should be heard worldwide," he added.

Comment: RT reports on Lavrov's comments:
Washington's reasoning behind bringing back the UN sanctions against Iran looks "funny," as the majority of UN Security Council members - 13 out of 15 - do not support activating the 'snapback' mechanism, the Russian Foreign Minister said, in an exclusive interview with the Al Arabiya news channel.

The council "clearly stated that there is no legal position or moral reasons for anything close to the snapback and all the statements to the contrary are null and void," he reminded his audience. The 'snapback' issue leaves Washington at loggerheads with even its closest allies.

Earlier on Sunday, the three European signatories to the Iran deal - Germany, France and the UK - stated the return of the sanctions will have no legal effect whatsoever.

However, the Trump administration continues to insist Washington now has the authority to target any country breaching the "re-imposed" sanctions. For Lavrov, this is telling, in terms of understanding the quality of US diplomacy.

"The Americans lost any talent in diplomacy, unfortunately; they used to have excellent experts, [but] now what they're doing in foreign policy is to put a demand on the table, whether they're discussing Iran or anything else."

If their counterpart disagrees and refuses to toe the line, "they put an ultimatum, they give a deadline and then they impose sanctions, then they make the sanctions extra-territorial." Regrettably, the European Union also "is engaging in the same tricks more and more," Lavrov noted.

"I can only remind them that they should respect the hierarchy of the American administration, because their boss, President Trump, has personally signed an official decree withdrawing the United States from the JCPOA," Lavrov added sarcastically.

Sanctions aside, Washington is also busy trying to prevent the lifting of the UN arms embargo on Iran, set to expire on October 18. This endeavor doesn't make much sense either, the Russian minister commented. "There is no such thing as an arms embargo against Iran," he clarified. The UN Security Council reiterated the embargo will end on that date, and "there would be no limitations whatsoever after the expiration of this timeframe."
See also:


Better Earth

Argentinian President joins 12 other world leaders and 167 ministers denouncing prosecution of Julian Assange

President Alberto Fernández of Argentina
© Flickr / Santiago Sito
President Alberto Fernández of Argentina
Over 167 notable ministers, heads of state and parliamentarians have added their names to the growing list of those calling for an end to the prosecution of WikiLeaks publisher and award-winning journalist Julian Assange.

President Alberto Fernández of Argentina and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro Moros have joined 11 former presidents from 11 different countries in endorsing an open letter blasting the prosecution of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange. The letter describes the 17 Espionage Act charges against Mr Assange as violating "the right to freedom of expression, freedom of the press and the right to know".

Campaign group Lawyers for Assange organised the letter, which was originally published on 14 August, and had the support of over 189 jurists, lawyers, academics and lawyers associations before this latest set of endorsements. The letter, which is addressed to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson along with other high ranking cabinet members, echoes the assessment of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, saying that:

Comment: See also:


Briefcase

Finally! Senate Homeland Security Committee approves subpoenas for Obama officials as part of Russia probe

Comey Brennan Clapper
© Unknown
James Comey • John Brennan • James Clapper
Includes John Brennan, James Clapper and James Comey

The Senate Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday voted to authorize subpoenas for former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former FBI Director James Comey, and other Obama administration officials as part of its broad review into the origins of the Russia investigation.

The committee on Wednesday held a business meeting to authorize committee Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis., to issue notices for taking depositions, subpoenas, for records, and subpoenas for testimony to individuals relating to the panel's "Crossfire Hurricane" investigation, the Justice Department inspector general's review of that investigation, and the "unmasking" of U.S. persons affiliated with the 2016 Trump campaign, transition team and the Trump administration.

The committee voted 8-6 to authorize the subpoenas.

Sheriff

WHO thanks Russia for developing "safe and effective" vaccine

sputnik vaccine
© AP Photo / Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr
The first officially registered vaccine against COVID-19, developed by the Gamaleya Scientific Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, is now undergoing Phase 3 trials involving around 2,000 people around the world.

"The WHO greatly appreciates the efforts that the Russian Federation has made to develop a vaccine against COVID-19, namely Sputnik V. Once again I want to thank Russia for its excellent efforts to create a safe and effective vaccine", Regional Director for Europe at the WHO Hans Kluge said after a meeting with Russian Minister of Health Mikhail Murashko.

He also stressed that Russia had helped him to provide aid to Central Asian countries amid the pandemic and had generally shown its commitment to global solidarity.

Comment: It's worth first noting that the need to take any coronavirus vaccine is likely completely unnecessary for everyone, even the minuscule percentage of people at risk.

That said, the situation reflects the state of the world quite aptly, because, while Russia developed its vaccine in record time, the West is halting their coronavirus vaccine trials amidst 'serious concerns' - except in the developing world where they're willing to experiment on the populace like disposable guinea pigs - and polls of the public show that they (quite rightly) don't trust the West's attempts at a vaccine nor are a large majority willing to - voluntarily - take it.

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