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Sat, 29 Apr 2017
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Red Flag

Donald Trump and his administration are backing away from his chief campaign promises

One hundred plus days into his topsy- turvy presidency, Donald Trump and his administration are sending conflicting messages about the agenda he ran on in his 2016 campaign.

In many cases, he appears to be backing away from the hardcore positions that appealed to his legions of cheering supporters who catapulted him into the White House.

In recent weeks, Trump and his advisers have abandoned key components of his plan to deport millions of illegal Hispanic immigrants, suggesting that many or even most of them will remain in this country.


Will Trump's new Executive Order eliminate "unnecessary regulations" in Big Agribusiness?

© Andrew Harnik/AP
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue applauds as President Donald Trump holds up the just signed executive order during a farmers' roundtable in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, April 25, 2017.
President Trump has just signed a new Executive Order, this time specifically on agriculture, directing the Secretary of Agriculture to undertake a 180-day review to "identify and eliminate" what Trump says are "unnecessary regulations".1 The Presidential Order also creates a new task force to recommend eliminating food and agriculture legislation, policies, and regulations that might hinder the profit-making of "agribusiness."

What kind of regulations are they looking at? Well, the details are slim, but what is there doesn't look good. We know that regulations regarding the oversight, production, and export of genetically engineered crops are high on the list.2 The Executive Order also seems to push for faster and/or easier approvals for pesticides and biotech crops, pushing biotech crops abroad to ease export market access, easing the privatization of scarce public water resources for corporate gain, and opening public lands up to mining, farming, ranching and other activities that don't belong on our public lands.3

Arrow Down

Top 10 broken promises of Trump's first 100 Days

President Donald Trump has hit his 100-day mark as commander in chief. While Trump has made good on some of his promises such as making adjustments to government agencies, creating a coalition to combat the opioid crisis, and making sweeping changes to the federal tax code, he made a plethora of campaign declarations and pledges that he has either abandoned — in a most hypocritical fashion — or is unable to fulfill.

Rand Paul warned that Trump was a chameleon in 2015 and cautioned that he was a "consummate insider." As many of Trump's former supporters have learned, he was right. Some of the pledges since dismissed by Trump were the very reasons why many voters ultimately chose Trump over Hillary Clinton or a third-party candidate.


Lavrov: Russian, US-led coalition should unite in counterterror fight in Syria

© AP Photo/ Aamaq News Agency
It is important to unite the efforts of Russia and the US-led coalition in order to improve efficiency of the fight against terrorists in Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Saturday.

"We believe that in order to solve this problem [to improve efficiency of anti-terror fight] it is important to unite the efforts of all those who fight terrorism in Syria, I mean both the Russian Aerospace Forces and the coalition led by the Americans," the Russian minister said at a meeting with his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi.

Speaking about the role of Moscow and Washington in the Syrian settlement, Lavrov added that Jordan's King Abdullah II repeatedly stressed the necessity of US-Russian cooperation on the Syrian issue. He added that Moscow was ready for this interaction and expected the same approach from Washington.

Comment: Lavrov seems to be reminiscing on what could be. Russia and US working together doesn't appear to be in the cards anytime soon.


Le Pen names nationalist Dupont-Aignan as Prime Minister in last minute bid to boost votes

With one week to go until the runoff round in the French presidential elections, Marine Le Pen - materially lagging her rival Macron according to daily polls - on Saturday chose defeated first-round candidate Nicolas Dupont-Aignan as her prime minister, in a last-minute attempt to court his voters and help her defeat her opponent.

"As President of the Republic I will name Nicolas Dupont-Aignan Prime Minister, supported by a presidential majority and united by the national interest," she told a news conference in Paris at which the two politicians sat together.

"We will form a government of national unity that brings together people chosen for their competence and their love of France," Le Pen told a Paris news conference, sitting side-by-side with her choice for premier.

Bad Guys

Social Democrats accuse interior & defense ministers of incompetence that places German security 'at risk'

© Fabrizio Bensch / Reuters
The Reichstag
German Social Democrats have accused Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere and Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen of an inability to control their ministries after an incident with a German officer who planned to commit an attack posing as a refugee.

The head of the Social Democratic faction in the German parliament, Thomas Oppermann, demanded an explanation from the two ministers concerning the reasons, due to which the officer, who posed as a Syrian refugee and led a dual life for more than a year, was not detained earlier.

"The scandalous incidents [that took place within the structures] affiliated with the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Defense should be investigated as soon as possible while similar incidents should be prevented in the future," Oppermann told the German Die Welt daily.

The politician also said that de Maiziere and von der Leyen pose "a security threat to Germany" under current circumstances.

Comment: German Army officer disguised as Syrian refugee arrested on suspicion of plotting a terror attack


'What's he hiding?' Wikipedia reportedly blocked by Erdogan's government

© Yves Herman / Reuters
Online encyclopedia Wikipedia has reportedly been blocked by Turkey's authorities in what looks like an act of censorship by government led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

All language editions of the site went down at around 8am local time on Saturday, with multiple service providers affected, including Turkcell and Uydunet, according to the Turkey Blocks organization, which tracks internet freedom.

The group says the shutdown was implemented by Turkey's Information and Communications Technologies Authority, but no reason has yet been given for blocking the site.

"Wikipedia blocked in Turkey under administrative measure No.490.05.01.2017... No court order," Turkey Blocks said in a tweet.


Saddam Hussein at 80: Iraq without its 'liberation'

© Reuters
Saddam Hussein celebrates his birthday. An undated photo from the private archive of an official photographer for the regime.
What would have happened had there been no Iraq War in 2003 and Saddam Hussein had stayed in power? Where would we be today?

It's the 28th of April 2017. Saddam Hussein, president of Iraq, now a member state of the newly reconstituted United Arab Republic (with Syria and Egypt), is celebrating his 80th birthday. There are big processions on a gloriously sunny and very hot day in Baghdad. Among visiting foreign heads of state was Zimbabwe's 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe, who joked that if Saddam gave up smoking Cohibas and started drinking herbal teas he might even live to be as old as him. However, Western leaders boycotted the celebrations, with British Prime Minister Theresa May - who says (at least ten times a day) that she supports a "strong and stable government" in the UK, denouncing Saddam as a "despicable tyrant." Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson went even further, calling Saddam "a dreadful mugwump thingymujig."


Trump's claims of 'isolating' Russia from China in UN Security Council are just empty bragging

© Mario Tama/Getty Images
Vitaly Churkin, left, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, and his Chinese counterpart Li Baodong before the vote on July 19, 2012 in New York.
In further sign of his chronic amateurism and tendency to brag President Trump trumpets as a 'foreign policy success' his getting China to abstain on the Khan Sheikhoun UN Security Council vote, claiming wrongly this 'isolated' Russia from China.

The reason why Chinese President Xi Jinping recently felt driven to send a personal message to Russian President Vladimir Putin reaffirming China's friendship and de facto alliance with Russia became all too clear when then Trump administration published on the White House website on Thursday 27th April 2017 a list of its foreign policy achievements in its first 100 days.

By most conventional criteria the list of 'achievements' is remarkably thin. That is hardly surprising given that Donald Trump has been President for just 3 months. It is scarcely credible that any US administration would achieve any great breakthrough in foreign policy in the first 3 months of its existence, and I cannot recall a single case in recent history when that has happened. Any other President would not waste his time with such a list at such an early stage in his administration when publishing it can only provoke ridicule.

This President is however different, and here for completeness is the list, or rather that part of it which concerns foreign policy.


Saudi reforms and the future of Mohammed bin Salman

On April 22, as was already customary in the era of King Salman and his son, Prince Mohammed, a series of royal decrees were unexpectedly adopted and immediately published. The essence of these decrees is twofold: on the one hand, the level of salaries and bonuses for state employees will be restored, after having been canceled in September 2016, and they, respectively, will be increased by twenty percent. In addition, two salaries are paid at once to servicemen fighting in Yemen. On the other hand, a number of resignations and new appointments have been announced, which can also be divided into two parts - the appointment of new ministers and new governors.

Rather significant figures have been dismissed from the group of appointees of Mohammed bin Salman himself, such as the Minister of Information and Culture, and technocrats, mostly not from the royal family, are listed in their place; whereas the posts of provincial governors and their deputies everywhere are taken up primarily by young princes of royal blood. The most notable appointment is the new ambassador to the United States - another son of King Khaled bin Salman. Yet another son, Abdelaziz bin Salman, changed from the Deputy Minister of Oil and Mineral Resources to State Minister for Energy (the post is more honorary than influential).