US & World News

OjukwuRNApril 10, 2018


President Donald Trump Monday reacted angrily to news that the FBI has raided the offices of his longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen, calling it a “disgraceful situation” and “a total witch hunt.”

At a meeting Monday evening with senior military leadership at the White House, Trump described the raid as a break-in.

“I just heard they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys – a good man,” he said.

Trump called the raid “an attack on our country, in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for.”

“That is really now on a whole new level of unfairness,” Trump said.

The story about the raid on Cohen’s home and offices was first reported by the New York Times just hours before the meeting, where it was expected that Trump would focus any remarks on the situation in Syria.

Trump lamented to reporters that “here we are talking about Syria and I have this witch hunt constantly going on.”

Following his extensive complaints about the Russia investigation, reporters in the meeting asked the president why he wouldn’t just take the next step and fire special counsel Robert Mueller, a step Republicans have repeatedly warned Trump against taking.

Trump didn’t rule out the idea.

“Why don’t I just fire Mueller? Well, I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on. We’ll see what happens,” Trump said. “Many people have said you should fire him.”

Unprompted, Trump railed against Mueller’s investigative team, saying it’s made up of the “most biased group of people.”

“These people have the biggest conflicts of interest I’ve ever seen,” Trump said. “Democrats all or just about all. Either Democrats or a couple Republicans that worked for President Obama. They are not looking at the other side.”

When asked if he is concerned about what federal investigators might find in the raid, the president responded sharply: “No.”

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer warned Trump not to fire Mueller.

“If the president is thinking of using this raid to fire Special Counsel Mueller or otherwise interfere with the chain of command in the Russia probe, we Democrats have one simple message for him: don’t.”

OjukwuRNApril 10, 2018


Today marks 15 years since Iraqis celebrated the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime by toppling a statue of the longtime ruler in downtown Baghdad.

Some of those celebrating beheaded the statue and embraced the American troops as liberators.

Saddam ruled for 23 years and committed numerous crimes before his ouster, which rendered him a fugitive with a $25 million bounty on his head.

In December 2003, the U.S. military confirmed Hussein’s capture. At the time, President George W. Bush told Iraqis: “You do not have to fear the rule of Saddam Hussein ever again.”

Three years later, Hussein and two co-defendants were found guilty of murder and crimes against humanity, linked to the 1982 killings of 148 Shiite Muslims in the Iraqi town of Dujail. They were sentenced to death by hanging.

OjukwuRNApril 10, 2018


No more details yet, but NBC News says the heart of the search relates to the payment to Stormy Daniels — which could have led to all of those charges depending on where the hush money really came from.
Trump has now commented on the investigation, calling the raid “ridiculous” and “a whole new level of unfairness.”

When asked if he would now plan on firing Robert Mueller in response, he said:
“I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on. We’ll see what happens.”
On Monday, the FBI raided the office of Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen.
According to the New York Times, federal prosecutors obtained a search warrant after receiving a tip from special counsel Robert Mueller.
Related: Celebs Lay Into Trump For His “Shithole Countries” Remark
The search does not appear to be directly related to Mueller’s investigation regarding possible Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
But of course if Mueller’s team happen to uncover crimes unrelated to their mandate, they’d have to report it to the proper authorities — which is apparently what happened in this case. Though what crimes is still unknown.
Cohen’s attorney Stephen Ryan confirmed the raid, saying:
“Today the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York executed a series of search warrants and seized the privileged communications between my client, Michael Cohen, and his clients… I have been advised by federal prosecutors that the New York action is, in part, a referral by the Office of Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.”
The seized records cover a variety of topics, including his communications with Trump (some of which may be protected under attorney-client privilege) AND the hush money Cohen has already admitted paying to adult actress Stormy Daniels for not talking about her alleged 2006 Lake Tahoe sexual encounter with the now-President.
Ryan says his client has cooperated with authorities and has handed over thousands of documents, including emails, tax docs, and business records.
As we reported in March, Daniels sued Cohen for defamation. On Monday her attorney once again filed a motion to depose Trump and Cohen. We’ll have to see if this new information changes things.

OjukwuRNApril 10, 2018


North Korea has told the United States for the first time that it is prepared to discuss the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula when North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets President Donald Trump, a U.S. official said on Sunday.

U.S. and North Korean officials have held secret contacts recently in which Pyongyang directly confirmed its willingness to hold the unprecedented summit, the official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The communications, still at a preliminary stage, have involved State Department officials talking to North Korea apparently through its United Nations mission, and intelligence officers from both sides using a separate backchannel, the official said.

Until now, the United States had relied mostly on ally South Korea’s assurance of Kim’s intentions.

South Korean envoys visited Washington last month to convey Kim’s invitation to meet. Trump, who has exchanged bellicose threats with Kim in the past year, surprised the world by quickly agreeing to meet Kim to discuss the crisis over Pyongyang’s development of nuclear weapons capable of hitting the United States.

But North Korea has not broken its public silence on the summit, which U.S. officials say is being planned for May. There was no immediate word on the possible venue for the talks, which would be the first ever between a sitting U.S. president and North Korean leader.

OjukwuRNApril 10, 2018


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un chaired a party meeting on Monday where he analysed the future outcome of dialogue with the United States and development of inter-Korean relations ahead of a summit with South Korea on April 27, the North’s state media said on Tuesday.

In North Korea’s first mention of official dialogue with United States and the summit with Seoul, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) added that Kim Jong Un set “strategic and tactical issues” to be upheld by his powerful Workers’ Party.

OjukwuRNApril 10, 2018


When reports of airstrikes against the regime of Bashar al-Assad began to appear last night, exactly who was striking what was initially in question.

Evidence was pieced together fast. Observers rapidly determined that the target of the aerial attack was a regime emplacement, Tiyas airbase (also called T4), which lies in Homs governate.

The base plays host not only to regime forces, but also to forces loyal to its Iranian allies and backers, at least four of whom have latterly been reported killed by Iranian state media.

The regime itself attempted, at first, to blame the United States.

This was not an entirely unreasonable leap. The Americans would have had justification to strike the regime that night. President Trump attacked ‘Animal Assad’ the previous day, following the latter’s likely use of chemical weapons against civilians in Douma, a town within besieged eastern Ghouta, an insurgent enclave now nearly overrun by regime forces.

Another candidate was France. President Emmanuel Macron has promised repeatedly to intervene against the regime should it use chemical weapons. He has never made good on this promise; but something felt different about the attack on Douma – the unusually high casualty count, the visceral horror, increasingly repeated but never diminished, of watching children choke on poisoned air.

Very soon, however, the relevant denials were issued. No member of the global coalition tasked with fighting the Islamic State group (IS) was involved, the United States said. Clips appearing to depict what sounded like warplanes flying over Lebanon soon began to circulate.

The growth of Iranian strength in Syria terrifies Israel
That left only one candidate.

Though the state of Israel has not confirmed its involvement – as is usual – it is overwhelmingly probable that the strikes reported last night were Israeli.

Though the proximate cause for this attack could be called specific and contemporary – the regime’s chemical atrocity and the prospect of punitive American and perhaps French action to come – it takes place amid an ongoing and long-standing Israeli air war against the Assad regime.

Before last night, the most recent major Israeli intervention in Syria took place when an Israeli plane was forced to crash land by regime anti-air fire in mid-February. The next day, Israel began an extensive series of attacks against regime targets which, in the initial estimation of Israeli officials, may have destroyed up to half of the regime’s capacity to defend itself against attack from the air.

The scale of that intervention was greater than usual, but it fits a pattern of Israeli action in Syria, aimed both at the Assad regime and Iran, as well as affiliated proxies and militias.

In what are estimated to total over one hundred separate strikes, Israel has repeatedly attacked the regime, as well as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and forces loyal to the Iranian proxy Hizballah, which are fighting on behalf of Assad in Syria.

Some examples. Last November, Israel struck at Hizballah’s supply of arms. That December, it attacked regime and Iranian targets. Early in February, missiles reported to be Israeli struck a regime military complex in Damascus.

This is part of a wider Israeli strategy in Syria which attempts to counter not just the unrestrained violence of the Assad regime, but what Israeli policymakers see as the creeping tendrils of Iranian influence.

The growth of Iranian strength in Syria – including the direct deployment of Iranian troops and the marshalling of tens of thousands of proxy fighters – terrifies Israel. Iran and its proxies want Israel not simply opposed but eradicated. These things cannot be pushed to one side in the Israeli consciousness.

That the Assad regime might endure, and because of its weakness be tightly bound to Iran and other members of the ‘axis of resistance’ aimed primarily at Israel, remains a persistent worry.

The axis hates Israel already. But especially recently, Israel has not endeared itself to the regime.

Specifically since an organised and armed opposition to the Assad regime emerged at the beginning of the decade, Israel has undertaken multifarious operations inside Syria.

In Operation Good Neighbour, Israel provided basic medical aid to thousands of Syrians. The regime sees this not only as an infringement of its sovereignty, but also an attack on its ability to treat Syrians exactly as it likes – as brutally as it wants – without outside interference.

Israel has also established functional relationships with Syrian armed groups who control territory bordering the Golan Heights, which Israel has occupied since the Six Day War.

Since the regime sees all opposition to itself not only as illegitimate but also as a threat to its survival, these Israeli actions are unlikely to be viewed charitably.

With the possibility of American and French action to come, Syria’s airspace may become crowded – and fast

Israel’s justification for interacting with armed groups is like its justification for repeatedly striking forces loyal to Assad and Iran. It is partially self-interested, and partially born of prosaic, common sense policy.

In the case of last night’s strikes, Israel can stand fairly on the usual retributive justification – the rationale that chemical crimes cannot go unpunished and that the brutal Assad regime must be made to face the consequences of its actions.

But more broadly, Israel acts against Assad with the confident self-interest inherent in opposing a nearby warlord willing to use weapons of mass destruction indiscriminately.

And above all that, to Israel’s mind, confronting the regime and Iranian forces in Syria remains essential to its security. The Israeli military’s Twitter spokesman drew followers’ attention to the Iranian presence at the T-4 airbase in February. It is inconceivable that the base was not already on a list of pre-approved targets, ready to be struck at a suitable interval.

With the possibility of American and French action to come, Syria’s airspace may become crowded – and fast. Far better, political and military leaders think, for Israel to get on with hitting its targets first and without complication.

The strikes last night must not be misinterpreted. They were not a rapid reaction undertaken without serious forethought and planning. Nor were they an act of Israeli charity, or a one-off response prompted by a visceral reaction to an exceptional demonstration of the regime’s barbarity. Israel’s aerial campaign in Syria must be seen as part of an sustained attempt to oppose Assad’s and Iran’s worst excesses, something justified by expedience and, in this rare case, morality.

OjukwuRNApril 10, 2018


A key fund aimed at helping Colombia implement the government’s peace agreement with leftist rebels is on shaky ground after several big international donors raised red flags over its management.

Officials announced Monday that the director of the Colombia Peace Fund has been dismissed and that a full review is being conducted to ensure greater efficiency and transparency.

The fund was opened last year and has already attracted more than $200 million in international aid for such activities as reintegrating rebels into civilian life and encouraging sustainable development.

In a document leaked to Colombian media, several foreign ambassadors expressed concern about management of parts of the fund.

Colombia’s attorney general is investigating the fund’s operations.

OjukwuRNApril 10, 2018


At a vigil Sunday night, in the arena that brought so much joy over the years, there were tears and a struggle to understand.When a truck slammed into the Humboldt Broncos’ bus Friday, killing 15 team members and injuring more than a dozen others, it broke the collective hearts of a nation and hockey fans everywhere. NHL players showed their grief by wearing uniforms with the Humboldt team’s name on them.

Ryan Straschnitzki, 18, survived the crash, but he is now paralyzed from the chest down. His parents, Tom and Michelle say even so, his thoughts are still with his friends.

OjukwuRNApril 9, 2018


Thousands of Czechs rallied on Monday to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Andrej Babis, battling police charges and without parliamentary backing for his government.

Nearly six months after an election that Babis’s ANO party won by a large margin, the billionaire businessman is still seeking partners to govern and heads a caretaker minority cabinet after losing a confidence vote in January.

Coalition talks with the Social Democrats broke down last week in a spat over the allocation of ministries and Babis has not said what he will do next before meeting President Milos Zeman on Tuesday.

Most other parties have shunned Babis due to an alleged fraud of European Union subsidies worth 2 million euros ($2.5 million) a decade ago. He denies wrongdoing.

Several thousand protested on Prague’s Wenceslas Square on Monday, according to news agency CTK’s estimates, while more than 2,000 rallied in Brno, the country’s second largest city. Police did not provide official estimates. Protests took place in other cities and towns.

Protest organisers say someone facing criminal charges should not lead the government.

Besides the subsidy case, Slovak-born Babis has also fought to be cleared of a charge of cooperating with the communist-era secret police, a demand rejected by a court in Slovakia earlier this year.

Thousands protested in March against a Communist lawmaker being named head of a police oversight commission despite his past in a communist-era special unit. ANO has held talks with the Communist Party over support for a new government, and the protesters took aim at Babis.

On Monday, Babis told newspaper Lidove Noviny he would agree to another candidate from his ANO party leading a new government if proposed by President Milos Zeman, but that he did not expect such a move now.

His anti-establishment party, pledging to fight political graft and bring a business touch to government, won nearly three times as many votes as its nearest rival in last October’s election but lacks a majority in parliament.

Besides the Social Democrats, ANO could lean on support from the Communists and the far-right, anti-EU SPD party. But many ANO party members oppose such cooperation, especially with the SPD.

Markets have largely shrugged off the political stalemate, with the economy growing and public finances in surplus.

OjukwuRNApril 9, 2018


audi Arabia announced Monday that it will take part in next month’s Cannes Film Festival with nine short films.

The Kingdom will also employ French expertise to set up a national opera and orchestra, under an agreement signed Monday during a visit to Paris by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense.

The deal will see the Paris Opera company help the Kingdom produce its own classical music and shows.

At Cannes, Riyadh will send an official delegation to the celebration of often edgy and subversive silver-screen festival on the Riviera.

“I cannot think of a better partner for culture and art than France,” Saudi Culture Minister Awwad Alawwad told AFP.

This will mark the Kingdom’s first official participation at the annual event.

Prince Mohammed, 32, was hosted by President Emmanuel Macron for a three-hour dinner at Paris’s Louvre museum Sunday night after flying in on his first trip to France as heir to the Saudi throne.

Macron also tweeted a picture of the pair at the Louvre.

“The discussions were friendly, which allowed the two men to establish a personal relationship,” Macron’s office said.

The two leaders will now work on a “strategic document” involving a series of contracts to be signed by Macron during a visit to Saudi Arabia later this year, his office said.

Macron, 40, will host the prince for a gala dinner at the Elysee Palace on Tuesday.

Prince Mohammed’s visit is part of a global tour that has already seen him travel to the United States, Britain and Egypt.

Saudi and French aides stressed before the trip that cultural ties, as well as new business opportunities, would be at the heart of two days of talks between government and private-sector figures from both countries.

In February, Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority (GEA) announced it would stage more than 5,000 festivals and concerts in 2018, double the number last year, and pump $64 billion in the sector in the coming decade.

The announcement about the Cannes film festival came after Prince Mohammed dined last week in Hollywood with media mogul Rupert Murdoch, along with film studio bosses and famed American actors including Morgan Freeman.