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Sat, 25 Feb 2017
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Solving 'epidemic' of human trafficking a priority, says Donald Trump

Trump said he has directed the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies that have a role in preventing human trafficking

© File photo
US President Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump has said addressing the "epidemic" of human trafficking is a priority for his administration. "Human trafficking is a dire problem, both domestically and internationally, and is one that has made really a challenge and it is really made possible to a large extent, more of a modern phenomenon, by what is taking place on the Internet, as you probably know," he said. "Solving the human trafficking epidemic, which is what it is, is a priority for my administration. We are going to help out a lot. 'Solve' is a wonderful word, a beautiful word, but I can tell you, we are going to help a lot," Trump said at a White House listening session on domestic and international human trafficking on Thursday.


Chief of Turkish General Staff: Goals of Euphrates Shield Operation in Syria achieved

© REUTERS/ Khalil Ashawi
Turkish forces and members of the Free Syrian Army are seen at the al Baza'a village on the outskirts of al-Bab town in Syria
Earlier in the day, media reported that all neighborhoods in the Syrian town of Al Bab had been taken under control of the Syrian opposition.

"Al Bab is under control, the goals set at the beginning of the operation have been achieved," Akar said as quoted by the Anadolu news agency.

He added that the necessary assistance for normalization of life of local people would be provided.

Comment: See also: Turkish military reports Syrian city of Al-Bab fully taken from ISIS


Smoking gun! Russian flags seen in CPAC audience

© Ian Bremmer / Facebook
Critics of President Donald Trump were quick to take offense at "Russian flags" handed out to the audience for his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Staff rounded up the flags and accused an activist of handing them out as a prank.

Trump addressed the conference on Friday morning, following appearances by Vice President Mike Pence and senior White House staff the day before. Former CNN reporter Peter Hamby was first to notice the flags - a white, blue and red tricolors with "Trump" printed in gold block letters on the blue stripe.


If an American diplomat dropped dead in Moscow we'd already be at war

We will know the truth eventually
We were the first alt media organization to point out that Vitaly Churkin's sudden death means that no less than four senior Russian diplomats have died unexpectedly in the last two months. (We have many admirers; one attempted to take credit for this observation without proper attribution. Alas, they made a real mess of it. "So it goes.")

The western media's disgusting glee and slime-slinging in response to Churkin's death was nothing less than expected. Far more extraordinary is how constrained Russia's response has been. Allegations of conspiracy or foul play have been nearly nonexistent in Russian media. Even alternative media has been surprisingly quiet about the obvious red flags Churkin's New York death raises.

Perhaps this is because many see Churkin's death as an extremely poorly-timed coincidence. There are other theories, of course:


Media silent as 4 top Russian diplomats die mysteriously in last 60 days

Four top Russian diplomats, including three ambassadors, have died suddenly and under mysterious circumstances just within the last 60 days.

© AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko
The widow of Andrei Karlov Marina kisses her husband during a religious service for killed Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov inside the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016.
Four top Russian diplomats, including three ambassadors, have died suddenly and under mysterious circumstances just within the last 60 days.


Bizarro Earth

Why World should breathe sigh of relief Senator McCain is not US President

© AP Photo/ J. Scott Applewhite
The United States is "lucky" that Republican Senator John McCain is not president because otherwise the country would be engulfed in "perpetual war," Kentucky Sen. and former presidential candidate Rand Paul said in a TV interview.

ABC News' Jon Karl asked Paul to comment on a series of statements by McCain, including the remark that the US is nearing a situation where people are potentially supportive of a dictatorship.

Star of David

Former chief rabbi plea deal rejected, to serve 4.5yrs in prison over long string of financial crimes

© Kay Nietfeld / www.globallookpress.com
Israel's former chief rabbi has been sentenced to four-and-a-half years behind bars after being convicted of taking more than $1.9 million in bribes, as well as fraud and obstruction of justice. The charges initially also included money laundering.

Former Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger was convicted in January on a plea deal and initially received 3.5 years in jail, the confiscation of his Jerusalem apartment, a fine and the payment of back taxes. The deal involved him confessing to accepting five million shekels ($1.3 million) in bribes - initially 10 million; the charges brought also included fraud, breach of trust and money laundering. Those were dropped under the deal.

However, on Thursday, Jerusalem's District Court rejected the earlier plea bargain, viewing it as too lenient for Metzger, and extended the prison sentence to 4.5 years. The former rabbi's associates earlier told newspaper Haaretz that Metzger was well aware of the possibility that denial of his crimes would not fly with the courts - and so he opted to take the deal.

According to Haaretz, the police built their case on the testimony of an unidentified witness.

Comment: Interesting the court rejected the plea bargain: Netanyahu's scandals reflect corruption at the heart of Israeli society


Trump signs new executive order taking aim at federal regulations

© Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
U.S. President Donald Trump signs an executive order, February 24, 2017.
US President Donald Trump signed a new executive order establishing regulatory reform offices within federal agencies as part of a push to "massively" reduce the number of government regulations.

Trump signed the order on Friday surrounded by executives of major US corporations.

The new measure follows the January 30 executive order placing hard limits on new government rules and mandating that two regulations must be repealed for every new one put into effect.


Turkish military reports Syrian city of Al-Bab fully taken from ISIS

© Nazeer al-Khatib / AFP
Turkish-backed Syrian rebels, Al-Bab on February 23, 2017
The Turkish military reports the ISIS stronghold of Al-Bab has been fully seized from terrorist control, according to a statement which comes hours after two car bombs claimed almost 70 lives in its vicinity.

"As of February 24, 2017, full control has been established over all districts of Al-Bab," a statement from the military reads, as cited by TASS news agency. "Work is still ongoing to clear the area of mines, IEDs and unexploded ordnances."

The announcement comes hours after almost 70 people were killed and over 100 injured in two subsequent car bomb attacks in the village of Sousian, a mere eight kilometers from Al-Bab.

This follows weeks of intense street fighting since early December, when Turkish forces and Free Syrian Army rebels began their siege of the northwestern Syrian town. Turkey has been fighting alongside rebel forces in Syria since August, as part of its Operation Euphrates Shield, intended to drive terrorist forces away from the Turkish border.

Comment: Almost 70 people, mostly civilians, have been killed near the Syrian city of Al-Bab, in Aleppo Province, in two Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) car bombings, media reports said.
The first explosion took place in the Syrian village of Sousian about eight kilometers north of Al-Bab in Aleppo Province, Reuters reported. The blast occurred in a particularly dense public area.

According to Anadolu Agency, at least 60 people were killed and 100 injured in the car bombing. At least 41 injured civilians have been transferred to a hospital in Kilis Province, southeastern Turkey on the border with Syria, Anadolu added, citing sources.

Six rebels were among those killed, Reuters reports, citing sources in the region, who said a car bomb was used in the attack.

A second car bomb exploded in the same village some time later, AP reported, citing the Aleppo Media Center and Thiqa News agency, media platforms operated by activists. The explosion left eight people dead, it added.

The incidents follow the Turkish military's announcement that Al-Bab had been liberated from IS in a joint operation with armed anti-government rebels. The operation began in August 2016.
Also read: Erdogan adviser says Turkey does not want 'to gain control' over Syria


Swedish intelligence report increase in foreign spies found at sensitive sites

© Tim Hepher / Reuters
Sweden's military defense agency has reported an increase in spying activity at "sensitive sites."
Foreign powers are taking greater risks to carry out espionage activity in Sweden as the country's military intelligence agency says they have identified an increasing number of spies at "sensitive sites".

In its 2016 annual report, Sweden's Military Intelligence and Security agency (MUST) says that foreign powers are going to greater lengths to gather information about Sweden's defense capabilities.

The report claims there has been an increase in the number of incidents of people possibly linked to a foreign power found at areas important to Sweden's defense when they have "no reasonable grounds" to be there, Dagens Nyheter reports.

MUST also says that foreign powers, none of whom are named in the report, have been taking greater risks to gather intelligence on Sweden's military prowess.