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World Monthly Headline News October 2019 Page 1

By Ellen Mitchell
President Trump this week showed no sign of backing down on his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria, stoking fears in Washington of worst-case scenarios from abandoning a crucial defense partner. Trump's move, which has paved the way for Turkey to proceed with a long-planned offensive against Syrian Kurdish forces who were instrumental in the fight against ISIS, has far-reaching implications both at home and abroad. Critics, including many from Trump's own party, argue the president is irreparably damaging the country's standing as a reliable partner by abandoning a U.S. ally, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), to be slaughtered by Turkey as well as fueling mayhem in the region that could allow ISIS to regain its footing. Trump, however, has pushed ahead, insisting the Kurds have mostly been fighting for their land and that he is filling a campaign promise to end “forever wars.” Here are five reasons Trump's move could spell trouble. ISIS fight upended, threatening a resurgence: In moving back from the Syria-Turkey border, U.S. troops left their Kurdish partners to both guard prisons holding more than 10,000 ISIS fighters and defend against Turkey's incursion. Critics fear the SDF will abandon or release ISIS prisoners when it has to devote its resources to fighting Ankara. The attacks also have distracted from NATO’s counter-ISIS campaign, though Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley on Friday insisted that the fight against ISIS in Syria had not stopped. The SDF “is still guarding prisoners in the area that have been detained over time,” he told reporters at the Pentagon while acknowledging the Turkish incursion “has had some effect” on the ISIS fight. The administration insists Turkey will be responsible for detaining ISIS fighters, but Brett McGurk, who resigned as Trump’s special envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition in December, warned Turkey “has neither the intent, desire, nor capacity” to manage ISIS detainees. “Believing otherwise is a reckless gamble with our national security,” he tweeted. US reputation damaged for future partnerships: In defending his decision to pull back U.S. troops, Trump has claimed he is fulfilling a campaign promise to halt “endless wars.” But in leaving the SDF to fend for itself, lawmakers warn Trump has sent a chilling message to allies and potential U.S. partners who may want help in future conflicts. The Trump administration "cut deal with [Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] allowing him to wipe [the Kurds] out. Damage to our reputation & national interest will be extraordinary & long lasting," Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. The president also sparked backlash among lawmakers for downplaying the Kurds’ role in helping the U.S. fight against ISIS, tweeting that they "fought with us, but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so." Trump maintained during a rambling press conference Wednesday that the Kurds are merely "fighting for their land." He attempted to justify his stance based on the fact that Kurdish soldiers did not fight alongside Americans during World War II. The Kurds "didn't help us in the Second World War, they didn't help us with Normandy as an example—they mention the names of different battles, they weren't there," Trump said. Syrian Kurdish officials have accused the president of stabbing them in the back after 11,000 of their troops were killed in the battle against ISIS. "Now we have been betrayed," Ilham Ahmed, co-chairman of the Syrian Democratic Council, the SDF's political arm, wrote in a Washington Post op-ed this week.

By Jessica Campisi
Russian President Vladimir Putin is urging foreign militaries to leave Syria as Turkey has come under increased scrutiny for waging a military offensive in the country. “Everyone who is illegitimately on the territory of any state, in this case Syria, must leave this territory. This applies to all states,” Putin told state news agencies RT, Sky News Arabia and Al Arabiya in an interview, according to Reuters. Putin, who is an ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, added that Russian forces in Syria are ready to leave the country when a new legitimate Syrian government tells Moscow it doesn’t need its help anymore, the outlet reported. Putin’s comments come as Turkey has waged a military offensive in northern Syria following President Trump’s decision earlier this week to remove U.S. troops from the area. Trump announced the move after a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, drawing strong criticism from lawmakers in both parties. Trump’s move was largely viewed as giving the go-ahead for the military incursion, since the U.S. troops had been an acting buffer between Turkish and Kurdish forces. Republican lawmakers have panned Trump's move, noting that the Syrian Kurdish allies have been a highly effective local tool for Washington in fighting ISIS. The Trump administration has warned Turkey of "powerful sanctions" that would "shut down the Turkish economy" if the country goes too far in Syria, though the exact circumstances that would provoke such a response are unclear.

Lev Parnas' relationship with the president might have begun years earlier than previously reported.
Donald Trump tried to distance himself from the latest scandal that threatens his presidency on Thursday by saying he didn’t know either of the foreign-born Rudy Giuliani associates that his own Justice Department had just indicted for alleged campaign finance violations. But that’s not what one of the men said three years ago — while attending Trump’s invite-only 2016 election night party in New York. In fact, Lev Parnas described himself to a foreign correspondent at the cash-bar event in midtown Manhattan as a friend of the president-elect who didn’t live far from his South Florida winter home. Parnas arrived at Trump’s November 2016 election night party, which was held in a ballroom at the Midtown Hilton, with two other men in suits and their heavily made-up wives, according to a forgotten but newly relevant dispatch from the event published at the time in Le Figaro, France’s oldest daily newspaper. The Ukrainian-born businessman told the paper that a friend from his hometown of Boca Raton, Fla., had hosted several fundraising events for Trump and that his daughter had traveled around the state singing on the candidate’s behalf. It is not clear what friend Parnas was referring to. “We are confident,” Parnas, told the newspaper, “America wants a change.” The newspaper described Parnas as an insurer. (Parnas co-founded a company, Fraud Guarantee, that at some point retained Giuliani as a lawyer.) Parnas arrived at Trump’s November 2016 election night party, which was held in a ballroom at the Midtown Hilton, with two other men in suits and their heavily made-up wives, according to a forgotten but newly relevant dispatch from the event published at the time in Le Figaro, France’s oldest daily newspaper. The Ukrainian-born businessman told the paper that a friend from his hometown of Boca Raton, Fla., had hosted several fundraising events for Trump and that his daughter had traveled around the state singing on the candidate’s behalf. It is not clear what friend Parnas was referring to. “We are confident,” Parnas, told the newspaper, “America wants a change.” The newspaper described Parnas as an insurer. (Parnas co-founded a company, Fraud Guarantee, that at some point retained Giuliani as a lawyer.) The new detail connecting Trump and Parnas at the same election night party in November 2016 raises fresh questions about the president’s insistence that he doesn’t know the Ukrainian-born businessman. It comes amid a rapidly unspooling investigation that appears headed for a House vote to impeach the president. On Thursday, Democrats probing Trump’s outreach to Ukrainian officials seeking an investigation into his political opponents sent subpoenas to both Parnas and his Florida-based partner, Igor Fruman, just hours after DOJ unsealed its indictments against the two businessmen.

By Niall Stanage
The drip, drip of revelations from the House Democratic impeachment probe of President Trump is continuing to create bad headlines for the White House, marring its efforts to push back on the issue. The latest negative news from the White House’s perspective came Friday, when the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine excoriated the administration in closed-door testimony on Capitol Hill. According to reports, Marie Yovanovitch said she had been told that Trump had pressed for her ouster, despite officials at the State Department contending she had done nothing wrong. Yovanovitch said she was “incredulous” at her removal, according to a copy of her opening statement obtained by The New York Times. Yovanovitch’s testimony itself was somewhat of a surprise. Many expected she would not appear after the White House said Tuesday it would not cooperate with the impeachment inquiry. But Democrats subpoenaed for Yovanovitch’s testimony, and the diplomat clearly wanted to tell her story. Separately, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, said in a statement that he would testify next week. Sondland’s testimony is likely to be friendlier to the White House, but it still has the potential to lead to some damage. Democrats also want to talk to other figures in the Ukraine controversy, including diplomat William Taylor, who believed Trump wanted to withhold aid to Ukraine unless it launched an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden. Taylor is the U.S. chargé d'affaires in Ukraine. Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Fiona Hill, a former staffer on the National Security Council who left the White House in August, are also on the Democratic wish-list. All of these developments came hot on the heels of the arrest of two associates of Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer. The two men, both with ties to Eastern Europe, have been accused of violating campaign finance laws. They were arrested at Dulles International Airport near Washington, as they attempted to leave the country. The steady stream of new developments has left Republicans wondering what more is still to come — a dynamic that has hampered the White House’s efforts to marshal party support behind a coherent message. “Obviously there is a ton of bad [news] out there,” said GOP strategist Liz Mair. “It is getting to be overwhelming. It is getting to the point where a lot of people are getting fed up.” The White House had come under criticism, even in Republican circles, for rotating through different justifications for the president’s actions regarding Ukraine since details first emerged last month about a July 25 phone call between him and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. On that call, Trump pressed Zelensky to open an investigation into Biden and his son Hunter. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) came out in favor of impeachment proceedings on Sep. 24 but it is only in the past week that the administration appears to have settled on a counter-message: that impeachment is not merely partisan but a de facto coup attempt against Trump.

Iran says will respond appropriately after investigation into 'cowardly' attack on its oil tanker in Red Sea. An Iranian government spokesman has described as "cowardly" an attack on its oil tanker, which was hit in Red Sea waters off the coast of Saudi Arabia on Friday. "Iran is avoiding haste, carefully examining what has happened and probing facts," spokesman Ali Rabei was quoted as saying by the official news agency, IRNA. He said Iran would respond after the facts had been studied. "An appropriate response will be given to the designers of this cowardly attack, but we will wait until all aspects of the plot are clarified," he said. Iranian media said the incident could stoke friction in a region rattled by attacks on tankers and oil installations since May. The National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), which owns the Sabiti, said its hull was hit by two separate explosions off the Saudi port of Jeddah. But the state-owned company denied reports the attack had originated from Saudi soil. Saudi says got distress message: For its part, Saudi Arabia said it received a distress message on the same day from a damaged Iranian tanker in the Red Sea but the vessel kept moving and switched off its transponder before it could assist, state news agency SPA reported on Saturday. SPA said the Sabiti tanker did not respond to many communications from the Saudi authorities.

By Simon Tisdall - The Guardian
Turkey’s Syria invasion following US withdrawal of its troops means that all bets are now off in the Middle East. By invading northern Syria last week, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan achieved what many thought impossible – uniting all the regional countries and rival powers with a stake in the country in furious opposition to what they see as a reckless, destabilising move. A truculent nationalist-populist with dictatorial tendencies, Erdoğan has often cast himself as one man against the world during 16 consecutive years as Turkey’s prime minister and president. Now he really is on his own. Fighting along the border is limited, so far, but that could quickly change. “Should hostilities intensify, a broader Turkish advance into densely populated areas could entail significant civilian casualties, displace many inhabitants and fuel local insurgency,” the International Crisis Group warned. Even as the EU, the US, Russia, Iran and the Arab states voice their differing objections to the invasion (Turkey terms it a “peace operation”), each is simultaneously trying to adjust to it, looking for advantage or leverage as the balance of power in Syria shifts again. Erdoğan doubtless anticipated Europe’s hostile reaction. His response – a threat to send 3.6 million Syrian refugees westwards – was contemptuous. He knows the EU’s words are not matched by action. Nor is he fazed by calls to suspend Turkey from Nato. Turkey’s relations with Europe were already at a low ebb because of its abysmal human rights record and thwarted EU membership bid. Now European leaders are paying a high price for past attempts to normalise Erdoğan’s authoritarianism. His latest actions prove he is no democrat, no ally and no friend. While Europe has scant influence over what happens next, the US has plenty – but seems determined to throw it away. Despite denials, it is clear from the White House statement issued on 6 October that Donald Trump rashly agreed to Erdoğan’s invasion, without consulting his allies, and facilitated it by withdrawing ground forces. It was a disastrous decision the US is belatedly scrambling to correct. Betraying the Kurds, comrades-in-arms in the fight against Isis, was bad enough. Appearing to abandon Syria to Russia and Iran, America’s rivals and the main backers of Bashar al-Assad’s criminal Damascus regime, was a big strategic own goal, capping eight years of post-Arab spring US policy failures.

Prominent figures on Russian TV have been openly putting out the same ideas that we now know the American president was privately pursuing.
By Julia Davis - the daily beast
Elements of the bombshell whistleblower report outlining various aims pursued by the Trump administration with respect to Ukraine keep connecting back to Russia. Several of the reported objectives of President Donald Trump, his administration officials, and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, would benefit the Kremlin and not the United States or its national security. Namely, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky was urged to make a deal with Putin, pressured “to play ball” with respect to providing or manufacturing compromising materials about Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden, and essentially tasked with concocting “the evidence” to disprove the well-established fact that the Democratic National Committee server was hacked by Russian intelligence agents in 2016. The unconscionable demand for Ukraine to make “a deal” with an invader— which has annexed and occupied its territory and continues to fuel an armed conflict that has claimed more than 13,000 lives—would mean a surrender of Ukraine’s national interests for the benefit of the Kremlin. It would also lead to the lifting of sanctions against Russia for its aggression in Ukraine. Casting doubt on Russia’s involvement in the hack of the DNC server would potentially lead to the lifting of sanctions against Russia for its election-meddling and other malign activities. Attacking the credibility of Biden, frequently described by Kremlin-controlled state television as “Trump’s most dangerous rival,” would also benefit Putin, who openly admitted that he wanted President Trump to be elected in 2016. That preference remains intact, in spite—or perhaps because—of multiple missteps by America’s bumbling commander in chief. Dmitry Kiselyov, the host of Russia’s most popular Sunday news program, Vesti Nedeli, urged Trump to keep digging in Ukraine for “the sweetest” kompromat of all: “Proving that Ukraine—not Russia—interfered in the U.S. elections.” The pressure on Ukraine to investigate Biden has been not only from Trump, but also from the Kremlin. One of the expectations, voiced on Russian state-television channel Rossiya 24 by analyst Alexander Kareevsky, was that taking down Biden would inevitably lead to the “revelation”—in fact, an outrageous fantasy—that the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was ordered by the Obama administration and carried out by Ukraine, not Russia.In another fantasy, pundits on Russian state television continually assert that Trump’s impeachment is all but “impossible.” In the meantime, the impeachment fallout is beneficial for the Kremlin, creating a spectacle of unprecedented political turmoil in the United States while placing Ukraine in the untenable position of alienating both parties, as well as the country’s European allies, and distracting from Russian election interference and the imposition of any additional sanctions. - Once again, Trump is caught doing what Putin wants over the interest of America.

By Tom O'Connor , James LaPorta AND Naveed Jamali
A contingent of U.S. Special Forces has been caught up in Turkish shelling against U.S.-backed Kurdish positions in northern Syria, days after President Donald Trump told his Turkish counterpart he would withdraw U.S. troops from certain positions in the area. Newsweek has learned through both an Iraqi Kurdish intelligence official and senior Pentagon official that Special Forces operating on Mashtenour hill in the majority-Kurdish city of Kobani fell under artillery fire from Turkish forces conducting their so-called "Operation Peace Spring" against Kurdish fighters backed by the U.S. but considered terrorist organizations by Turkey. The senior Pentagon official said that Turkish forces should be aware of U.S. positions "down to the grid." The official could not specify the exact number of personnel present, but indicated they were "small numbers below company level," so somewhere between 15 and 100 troops. Newsweek has reached out to the Pentagon for comment on the situation. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had long warned he would storm the border to establish a so-called "safe zone" and, after the White House announced Sunday that U.S. troops would stand aside, he launched the operation earlier this week. In its Sunday statement, the White House had said that U.S. troops "will no longer be in the immediate area" as Turkey and allied Syrian rebels commenced their assault. During Friday's press conference, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Army General Mark Milley said that U.S. personnel were "still co-located" save for "two small outposts" near the border with Turkey. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said 50 Special Forces personnel had been repositioned ahead of the Turkish and allied Syrian rebel assault.

Under the agreement, the U.S. will no longer go forward with a planned tariff increase on Oct. 15 on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports.
By Adam Edelman
President Donald Trump said Friday that the U.S. and China had reached a “substantial phase one deal” on trade that will eliminate a tariff hike that had been planned for next week. Trump announced the deal in the Oval Office alongside members of his economic and trade teams, as well as Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and his team, who were in Washington for negotiations. Trump said the deal would take three to five weeks to write and could possibly be wrapped up and signed by the middle of November, when world leaders will travel to Chile for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. “We've come to a deal pretty much, subject to getting it written,” Trump said. “This is something that is going to be great for China and great for the U.S.A,” he added. News of a possible deal had been reported earlier in the day, sending markets upward. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed the day up nearly 320 points, or 1.2 percent. Trump — who last week publicly urged the Chinese government to probe former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter over the latter's involvement with an investment fund that raised money in the country — said Friday that the Bidens didn't come up during trade negotiations. "I have not brought up Joe Biden. China can do whatever they want with respect to the Bidens," Trump said.

But the administration holds back from announcing any new economic penalties at this time.
President Donald Trump’s administration on Friday threatened new sanctions against Turkey, opening the door to punishing the Middle Eastern nation for its brutal offensive against U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish militias. The potential economic penalties come just days after the White House announced that it would allow the Turkish military to proceed with a planned invasion into northern Syria — where Kurdish fighters had aided American forces in stamping out the remnants of the Islamic State terror group.

BBC News - Some 100,000 people have fled their homes in north Syria, the UN reports, as Turkey presses on with its cross-border offensive on Kurdish-held areas Many people are sheltering in schools or other buildings in Hassakeh city and the town of Tal Tamer, the UN says. Turkey took action on Wednesday after US President Donald Trump pulled American troops out of the area. At least 11 civilians have died. Humanitarian groups say the number of people affected will rise further. Dozens of fighters from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and pro-Turkish factions have been killed. The first death of a Turkish soldier was confirmed by Turkey's military. Analysts say the US withdrawal in effect gave Turkey the green light to begin its cross-border assault. Much of the region has been outside the control of the Syrian government as a consequence of the civil war which began in 2011. It has been controlled by the SDF since 2015. The SDF have been key allies of the US in the battle against the Islamic State (IS) group but Turkey regards the Kurdish militias of the SDF as "terrorists" who support an anti-Turkish insurgency. Turkey defended its offensive as a bid to create a "safe zone" free of Kurdish militias which could also house Syrian refugees. One major concern for the international community is the fate of thousands of suspected IS prisoners, including many foreign nationals, being guarded by Kurdish-led forces in the region. What's the latest on the fighting? IS said it had planted a car bomb attack that killed six people - both civilians and members of the security forces - in the border town of Qamishli on Friday.

CBS This Morning - Iran says two missiles hit an Iranian tanker overnight off the coast of Saudi Arabia, in a new escalation of tensions in the region. Iran's state-run news agency says the ship was sailing near the Saudi port of Jeddah. The tanker company says the crew is safe. The reported attack comes just weeks after drone and missile attacks on the world's largest oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia.

By Pilar Melendez
The United States will deploy thousands of U.S. forces to Saudi Arabia in response to Iran’s attack on the country’s oil facilities in September, the Pentagon announced Friday. The deployment of about 1,500 extra troops will also include fighter squadrons, early detection aircraft, and air defense systems. The move comes shortly after President Trump decided to withdraw U.S. military forces from northeastern Syria, essentially allowing Turkey to attack America’s Kurdish allies. “[Defense] Secretary Esper informed Saudi Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Muhammad bin Salman this morning of the additional troop deployment to assure and enhance the defense of Saudi Arabia,” Chief Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement on Friday. “Taken together with other deployments, this constitutes an additional 3,000 forces that have been extended or authorized within the last month.”

By Sara Murray and Rene Marsh, CNN
(CNN) - A political appointee at the Office of Management and Budget took the unusual step of getting involved in signing off on freezing US aid to Ukraine this past summer -- a process normally reserved for career budget officials, according to sources familiar with the matter. Michael Duffey, OMB's associate director for national security programs and a Trump political appointee, signed at least some of the documents delaying aid to Ukraine, two sources told CNN. Normally a career budget official signs such documents. Sources told CNN it is highly unusual for a political appointee to be involved in signing off on such a freeze. In this case, career budget officials raised concerns about signing the documents because they believed such a move may have run afoul of laws requiring OMB to spend money as it is appropriated by Congress, according to a congressional aide. Duffey's role is of interest to House Democrats who are conducting an impeachment inquiry over Trump's moves to pressure Ukraine for help investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either. Congressional impeachment investigators believe that there may be a paper trail at OMB that sheds light on the decision to block aid to Ukraine this summer as Trump and his allies were pressuring the new government. The decisionmaking behind the administration's moves on aid has been obscured from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers. The Wall Street Journal first reported that Duffey's involvement is of interest to the impeachment inquiry. "The idea that administration officials would not be involved in budget execution, including apportionment authority, after decades of precedent, is absolutely ludicrous," said Rachel Semmel, a spokeswoman for OMB. "It is absurd to suggest that the President and his administration officials should not play a leadership role in ensuring taxpayer dollars are well spent." Another source familiar with the situation said there was a legitimate reason for Duffey to personally sign off on the freeze. Relatively new to OMB, Duffey wanted a better understanding of how the apportionment process worked, a source said. The source said Duffey signed the paperwork to halt the aid based on his belief that the White House would want to review it because the President doesn't like spending on foreign aid in general. "This is a highly unusual set of circumstances that would have raised serious red flags for career officials at the Department of Defense, the State Department and OMB," said Sam Berger, a vice president at the left-leaning Center for American Progress and a former senior counselor and policy adviser at OMB. Congressional investigators looking to follow the money -- or rather, where it was frozen -- have so far hit a wall at OMB. OMB's acting director Russell Vought made it clear Wednesday that he's prepared to block requests for information from House Democrats, in line with the White House position.

While everyone’s focused on Ukraine, Trump is selling out to Turkey.
By William Saletan
It’s hard to keep track of President Donald Trump’s betrayals of his country. First he solicited Vladimir Putin’s help in the 2016 election. Then he teamed up with Kim Jong-un to lie about North Korea’s arsenal. Then he covered up intelligence about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s role in the murder of a U.S. resident. Then he pressed Israel to deny entry to members of Congress. Then he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Democrats. In the midst of all this madness—most recently, the administration’s stonewalling of a congressional inquiry into Trump’s coercion of Ukraine—the president has ordered American forces to get out of the way of a Turkish invasion in Syria. The troop withdrawal looks like a distraction, but it isn’t. Trump is colluding with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, just as he has colluded with other authoritarians against the United States. The timeline of their relationship tells a story of disloyalty to America and its allies. Turkey infiltrates the Trump campaign. On July 19, 2016, Trump accepted the Republican nomination for president. Six days later, a Turkish-Dutch businessman opened secret talks with Trump’s foreign policy adviser, Michael Flynn. The businessman’s goal, in collaboration with Turkish officials, was to build support in Washington for the extradition of Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish dissident living in Pennsylvania. On Aug. 9, Flynn signed a $600,000 contract to execute the lobbying operation. He was introduced to Turkish government ministers who supported it. For the rest of the presidential campaign, Flynn worked, in effect, as a Turkish agent. Flynn spikes a plan to arm the Kurds. In December 2016, President Barack Obama decided to arm Kurdish forces—whom Erdogan regarded as enemies of Turkey—for an allied attack on the ISIS stronghold in Raqqa, Syria. Since Trump was the president-elect, Obama’s aides consulted Trump’s designated national security adviser, Flynn, about the plan. Flynn told them not to proceed. At this point, Flynn was no longer working for his Turkish clients, but they had paid him more than $500,000. A few days later, Flynn met for breakfast with Turkey’s foreign minister.

Trump is reportedly considering partially lifting ban on sales to Chinese tech giant Huawei and making a currency deal.
With trade talks between the United States and China resuming this week, the US appears to have made some concessions that could help reduce tensions between the world's top two economies. The New York Times newspaper reported that the US was considering issuing licences to American companies allowing them to supply non-sensitive components to Chinese telecoms giant Huawei. In May, US President Donald Trump had proposed to ban Huawei from buying parts and technology from US suppliers citing national security concerns. But the paper, citing unidentified sources, says Trump gave the green light in early October for the issuance of licences to US companies to supply Huawei with some equipment. The top negotiators from the two sides are set to meet on Thursday for the first time since late July to try to find a way out of a 15-month trade war that has forced companies to alter supply chains and been a drag on the global economy. China is urging the US to stop what it described as unreasonable pressure on Chinese companies, including Huawei, foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a news briefing in Beijing ahead of the talks. Separately, the US is also considering a currency pact with China as part of a partial trade deal, the Bloomberg news agency reported, also quoting unidentified sources. Tariffs that are due to increase next week could also be suspended as part of this deal, it reported. The currency accord was something the US said had been agreed to earlier in the year before trade talks broke down. It is meant to be followed by further negotiations on core issues such as intellectual property and forced technology transfers, Bloomberg reported. Chinese Vice Premier Liu He is scheduled to lead the Chinese delegation in trade talks with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday and Friday in Washington, DC.

By Morgan Chalfant
President Trump on Wednesday criticized the Kurds, saying they didn't help the United States during World War II and that they were only fighting for their land in Syria during the battle against ISIS. “The Kurds are fighting for their land,” Trump told reporters at the White House during an event in the Roosevelt Room. “And as somebody wrote in a very, very powerful article today, they didn’t help us in the second World War, they didn’t help us with Normandy as an example. They mentioned names of different battles. But they’re there to help us with their land and that’s a different thing.” Trump did not specify to which article he was referring, but some on Twitter pointed to an article written in TownHall by conservative Kurt Schlichter that included a reference to the Kurds and Normandy. The remarks from Trump at the White House came as Turkey launched an offensive in northern Syria against Kurdish forces that had been allied with the United States in the fight on terror. Trump paved the way for the Turkish offensive when he announced earlier this week, to a GOP furor, that he was withdrawing U.S. forces from that part of Syria. Some of Trump's staunchest Republican allies have ripped the move, calling it a betrayal of a loyal U.S. ally in the Kurds. Trump insisted the U.S. has spent “tremendous amounts of money” helping the Kurds purchase ammunition and weapons.

The ambassador was responding to the senior diplomat's remark that it would be “crazy” to link Ukraine assistance to help with a political campaign.
By Josh Lederman, Heidi Przybyla and Leigh Ann Caldwell
Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland consulted directly with President Donald Trump before telling the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine that there had been "no quid pro quo” regarding the administration's pressure campaign on the country and urging the diplomat to stop texting about his concerns, a person with knowledge of the call confirmed to NBC News. Sondland spoke to Trump by phone on Sept. 9 before responding to acting Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor's remark that it would be “crazy” to link Ukraine assistance to help with a political campaign, the person said. When Sondland responded several hours later, he told Taylor that Trump had been “crystal clear” that there had been no quid pro quo. The conversation between Trump and Sondland was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. The Trump administration's alleged efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son while the U.S. withheld military aid to the country have given rise to an impeachment investigation in the House. According to the individual and two congressional aides, Sondland, Taylor and former U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker also used the encrypted messaging app WhatsApp, in addition to regular text messages, to communicate about the administration's Ukraine efforts. The use of WhatsApp has raised questions about the potential problems it could pose for complying with federal record-keeping requirements. Volker turned over a score of text messages to Congress last week as part of his joint deposition to three House committees leading the chamber's impeachment investigation. House Democrats made some of those text messages public, and congressional officials say they have more text messages between the three administration officials that have not been released. Sondland, who has emerged as a central player in Trump's bid to persuade Ukraine’s new government to commit publicly to investigate corruption and the president's political opponents, was scheduled to be interviewed Tuesday by the House committees leading the impeachment inquiry, but was barred from doing so by the State Department. A statement distributed by his attorney, Robert Luskin, on Tuesday made clear that the State Department was blocking Sondland from testifying over his objections. The statement said Sondland was “profoundly disappointed” he couldn’t testify, having traveled to Washington from Brussels to do so. Sondland was ready to testify “on short notice” once the State Department’s concerns about his testimony are resolved, Luskin said.

By W.J. Hennigan and John Walcott October 9, 2019
As Turkish warplanes bomb U.S.-backed Kurdish allies in northeastern Syria, the Trump Administration has yet to draw up a strategy to safeguard and maintain the more than 30 detention camps that hold tens of thousands of ISIS fighters, families and sympathizers spread across the region. The Kurds, part of the U.S.-allied Syrian Democratic Forces, control facilities holding about 11,000 ISIS detainees across northern Syria. They also run a camp for internally displaced persons known as al-Hol, in northeastern Syria, that holds nearly 70,000 people. Among them are thousands of ISIS family members, according to a recent Defense Department Inspector General’s report. The U.S. military has no plans to take over these camps and, with only about 1,000 total troops inside Syria, is not prepared to do so, U.S. officials told TIME. If the Kurds abandon their guard posts to defend their homes against the Turkish military incursion, thousands of ISIS operatives are likely to escape, U.S. military, diplomatic and intelligence officials have concluded. Past and present U.S. military commanders have shared that assessment directly with President Donald Trump, but he has rebuffed the warnings and demanded that Turkey take control of the camps, the officials say. Most of the camps remain outside the area that Turkey is expected to occupy, and the Kurds have said they will remain in control over the detainees. But that may prove difficult if fighting in their home territory intensifies. In early 2018, hundreds of Kurds opted to abandon fighting positions against ISIS in eastern Syria to assist Kurdish forces fighting Turkish military in another skirmish in Afrin, in northwestern Syria.

By Marc Champion and Henry Meyer
President Donald Trump said his decision to shift U.S. troops out of the path of a threatened Turkish military incursion in Syria will be regretted most by Russia and China. They “love to see us bogged down” in expensive military quagmires, he tweeted on Monday. To some Russian and U.S. analysts and officials, however, Moscow is likely to be a major beneficiary of the move. A complete U.S. pullout would remove Russia’s only military equal from the contest to shape Syria’s future, according to Trump’s former envoy for combating the so-called Islamic State, Brett McGurk. He has argued since resigning his post in December that in place of the U.S., Moscow would then have to deal with Turkey, a weaker and more compliant regional player. What’s more, with Syria’s Kurds no longer protected by the U.S., Russia will face less resistance as it tries to secure its main goal there -- a political settlement that returns the entire country to the control of President Bashar al-Assad. Having swayed the course of the Syrian conflict, Russia is now in the throes of a return to its Cold War days as a power in the Middle East. Unreliable Ally: More broadly, a White House decision to abandon the predominantly Kurdish Syrian Defense Force -- an ally which provided ground troops for the U.S.-led fight to defeat Islamic State in Syria -- risks deepening a narrative of American unreliability that began during the 2011 Arab Spring. The U.S. was widely seen in the region as having failed to give then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a long-time ally, the support he needed to survive the protests.

Before attending the 74th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, Imran Khan had first visited Saudi Arabia.
World | Indo-Asian News Service
Islamabad:  A Pakistani magazine has claimed that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was "alienated" with "some dimensions" of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan's actions on the sidelines of the UNGA session in New York last month, that he ordered his "private jet to disembowel the Pakistani delegation" as a consequence. Before attending the 74th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, Mr Khan had first visited Saudi Arabia. While departing for New York from Jeddah, the Saudi Crown Prince stopped Mr Khan from embarking a commercial flight to the US and asked him to fly onboard his private jet as he could not let his guest travel in a commercial plane, Pakistani media reports had said. But while Mr Khan was returning to Islamabad from New York on September 28, it was reported that the Saudi plane developed a technical glitch following which the Prime Minister and his delegation returned to New York and then took a commercial flight back to Pakistan. But the Friday Times weekly magazine has contradicted this claim, and in an article published on October 4, it said: "The Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman, was so alienated by some dimensions of the Pakistani Prime Minister's diplomacy in New York - he couldn't have been happy at the prospect of Imran Khan, (Turkish President) Recep Tayyip Erdogan and (Malaysian Prime Minister) Mahathir Mohammad planning to jointly represent the Islamic bloc, nor with Pakistan's interlocution with Iran without his explicit approval...he visibly snubbed Imran by ordering his private jet to disembowel the Pakistani delegation..."

A Scottish judge has dismissed a move to force Boris Johnson to comply with a law aimed at avoiding a no-deal Brexit. Campaigners had wanted to ensure that the prime minister would write to the EU to request an extension if no deal is in place by 19 October. They argued that statements made by the government showed that it could not be trusted. But Lord Pentland said there "can be no doubt" that the prime minister had agreed to abide by the law. As a result, he said there was no need for "coercive orders" against the UK government or against the prime minister. And he said it would be "destructive of one of the core principles of constitutional propriety and of the mutual trust that is the bedrock of the relationship between the court and the Crown" if Mr Johnson reneged on his assurances to the court. The Scottish legal action was initiated by businessman Dale Vince, QC Jo Maugham and SNP MP Joanna Cherry. They wanted the Court of Session, Scotland's highest court, to rule on the extent to which Mr Johnson is bound by the so-called Benn Act. The legislation was passed by MPs with the intention of preventing the UK leaving the European Union without a deal on 31 October. It requires the prime minister to send a letter to the EU formally requesting an extension to the Brexit timetable. Court orders 'not necessary' Lord Pentland said the UK government had accepted it must "comply fully" with the act and would not seek to "frustrate its purpose". The petitioners had argued that a series of public statements by the prime minster indicated Mr Johnson was planning to break the law. However, the judge ruled that the UK government's public statements were an expression of its "political policy" and were "clearly not intended to be taken as conclusive statements of the government's understanding of its legal obligations".

By Tracy Wilkinson - LA Times
U.S. political leaders peddled ill-informed accounts about the situation in Ukraine, a top advisor to Ukraine’s president said in his first interview with a U.S. news outlet. Although he stressed that he did not believe the falsehoods ever threatened U.S.-Ukrainian relations, the accounts may have given President Trump cover for suspending military aid. “The fact is that some American politicians were not informed in the right degree about what is going on here,” Andriy Yermak said Saturday in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “This is both our problem and their problem,” said Yermak, who is a top advisor and longtime friend of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. “Clearly, over the years,” he added, “President Trump had developed a negative impression of Ukraine, which was not what we wanted.” Yermak said he spent weeks this summer attempting to reassure U.S. officials that the United States had no enemies in the Ukrainian leadership, even before he learned of U.S. officials’ decision to suspend a military aid package to Ukraine, and was dismayed that the country had been dragged into Washington’s political fights and Trump’s possible impeachment. Yermak chose his words carefully to avoid overt criticism of Trump advisors. He clearly communicated a sense of hope that what some view as damage to Ukraine, which has depended on U.S. and European help against Russia, would be temporary. Yermak was asked if he could trust the U.S. under Trump after all that had transpired in recent weeks, and a lengthy pause followed. “We are pragmatic,” he said.

By James Pomfret, Jessie Pang
HONG KONG (Reuters) - Chinese soldiers issued a warning to Hong Kong protesters on Sunday who shone lasers at their barracks in the city, in the first direct interaction with mainland military forces in four months of anti-government demonstrations. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) garrison in Kowloon district warned a crowd of a few hundred protesters they could be arrested for targeting its troops and barracks walls with laser lights. One officer shouted through a loudhailer in broken Cantonese - the main language of Hong Kong - “Bear consequences for your actions.” The stand-off with the PLA came after rallies attended by tens of thousands of protesters earlier on Sunday ended in violent clashes in several locations. Police fired tear gas and baton-charged the crowds, while some demonstrators threw bricks and petrol bombs at police as night fell. Protesters concealed their faces in defiance of colonial-era emergency laws invoked by the authorities on Friday, which banned face masks. Protesters face a maximum of one year in jail for breaking the mask ban. Police made their first arrests under the new rules, detaining scores of people. Officers tied their wrists with cable and unmasked their faces before placing them on buses. Some protesters lay in foetal positions on the ground, their wrists tied behind their backs, after being subdued with pepper spray and batons. “The anti-mask law just fuels our anger and more will people come on to the street,” Lee, a university student wearing a blue mask, said on Sunday, as he marched on Hong Kong island. “We are not afraid of the new law, we will continue fighting. We will fight for righteousness. I put on the mask to tell the government that I’m not afraid of tyranny.” Chinese military personnel standing on the roof of the PLA’s Osborn Barracks in Kowloon Tong district held up a sign in English and Chinese which read: “Warning. You are in breach of the law. You may be prosecuted.” The troops in fatigues also shone spotlights on the crowd and used binoculars and cameras to monitor protesters. The protesters, several thousand of whom passed the barracks, eventually dispersed. In August, Beijing moved thousands of troops across the border into Hong Kong in an operation state news agency Xinhua described at the time as a routine “rotation”. But the PLA has remained in barracks since protests started, leaving Hong Kong’s police force to deal with the massive and often violent protests in the Asian financial hub. The PLA’s top brass has warned violence is “absolutely impermissible”.

The biggest beneficiary of the Ukraine scandal is, sure enough, the Kremlin.
A year ago, I was in Kiev when a young Ukrainian soldier was killed. Olesya Baklanova, 19, enlisted in the Ukrainian Armed Forces as soon as she was eligible and fought to be assigned a combat post. Deployed to the front lines of her country’s war against Russia, she was killed during the night while manning an observation post, shot by a sniper stationed among the Russian and proxy forces dug in a few hundred meters way. She was one of four Ukrainian soldiers killed at their post that night — one of the estimated 13,000 soldiers, fighters and civilians killed in eastern Ukraine in the past five years. Her story was a concise reminder of the realities of Ukraine’s forgotten war. Russian forces seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in early 2014; weeks later, Russia formally annexed the territory. This was an important strategic goal for President Vladimir Putin. To ensure that no one had time to do anything about it — and to further destabilize Ukraine — Russia then launched a war in eastern Ukraine, in the Donbas region, using nominal separatists with Russian backing. Five years on, it’s still a hot war, with Russia constantly pushing forward the line of occupation. Some 1.5 million people have been displaced. The shifting mass of regular and irregular Russian troops in eastern Ukraine — soldiers and mercenaries; “separatist” proxies and militias; a lot of guys with pseudonyms using advanced Russian weaponry that Russia claims must have been bought at the local corner shop (note: it is supplied from Russia) — constantly test and adapt new capabilities, especially electronic warfare capabilities, on the battlefield. Ukrainian forces, with Western support, have steadily developed new measures to counter whatever is thrown at them. The Ukrainian war effort is defined both by this ingenuity and by sacrifice. The army, left gutted by former President Viktor Yanukovych, was rebuilt entirely in wartime. New units are rotated through areas of heavy fighting to increase their combat experience — a wartime readiness strategy that contributes to spikes in casualties, but which has been enormously successful. The average age of Ukrainian recruits is officially around 36, though anecdotally it’s over 40 at the front, as the generation that remembers life before independence now leads the fight to keep it.

ABC News - The woman, who has been accused of killing Harry Dunn in a car crash, has left the U.K.

Demonstrators seek political overhaul as death toll rises after days of unrest over long-standing grievances.
by Farah Najjar
As clouds of white smoke billowed overhead, Showqi had no other option but to flee. Nearby, dozens of people scattered as they tried to outrun a fresh volley of tear gas fired by security  forces in Tahrir Square, in the centre of Iraq's capital, Baghdad. "They're the lucky ones, [the ones] who were not targeted by government snipers," Showqi said on Saturday, referring to the men who had run alongside him, some holding masks and pieces of cloth to their faces as they coughed and gasped for air. For five straight days, large crowds of mostly young Iraqis have poured onto the streets of Baghdad and other cities in an outburst of anger over chronic unemployment, corruption and poor public services, including access to water and electricity. Along with tear gas, police have also fired water cannon, live rounds and rubber bullets to disperse the rallies, which began on Tuesday when thousands in Baghdad answered a call on social media. Since then, nearly 100 people have been killed, including some by sniper fire, while some 4,000 others have been wounded, according to figures by the semi-official Iraqi High Commission of Human Rights. In a bid to quell the unrest, the year-old government of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi imposed a near-total internet blackout and declared a curfew in certain areas, before lifting it on Saturday morning. Showqi, whose last name has been withheld for his safety, said many protesters had been beaten by riot police, while others were taken into custody. "People are starving, that's why they're protesting," the 51-year-old said. "We have a lot of oil reserves here, but we don't see any of the country's wealth. "Where is it all going?" 'Complete overhaul' Home to the world's fourth-largest oil reserves, Iraq has been ravaged by decades of near-continuous conflict, including a US-led invasion, that has destroyed much of the country's infrastructure. Nearly 60 percent of Iraq's 40 million people live on less than $6 a day, according to World Bank figures. The economic woes of the rapidly growing and mostly young population have persisted despite the country enjoying a period of relative stability following the recapturing of a number of urban centres from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) armed group in 2017.

North Korea's chief negotiator accuses US of being 'inflexible' as talks, stalled since February, break down in Sweden.
Working-level nuclear talks in Sweden between officials from Pyongyang and Washington have broken off, North Korea's top negotiator has said, dashing prospects for an end to months of stalemate. The talks, at an isolated conference centre on the outskirts of Stockholm, were the first such formal discussions since US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met in June and agreed to restart negotiations that stalled after a failed summit in Vietnam in February. North Korea's chief nuclear negotiator, Kim Myong Gil, who spent much of the day in talks with a US delegation, cast the blame on what he portrayed as US inflexibility, saying the other side's negotiators would not "give up their old viewpoint and attitude". "The negotiations have not fulfilled our expectation and finally broke off," Kim Myong Gil told reporters outside the North Korean embassy, speaking through an interpreter. The US State Department said Kim Myong Gil's comments did not reflect "the content or spirit" of nearly nine hours of talks, and that Washington had accepted Sweden's invitation to return for more discussions with Pyongyang in two weeks. "The US brought creative ideas and had good discussions with its DPRK counterparts," spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement. North Korea's official name is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). She said the US delegation had previewed a number of new initiatives that would pave the way for progress in the talks and underscored the importance of more intensive engagement. "The United States and the DPRK will not overcome a legacy of 70 years of war and hostility on the Korean Peninsula through the course of a single Saturday," she said. "These are weighty issues, and they require a strong commitment by both countries. The United States has that commitment."

The company said that it had seen "significant cyber activity" from a group of hackers that it believes "originates from Iran and is linked to the Iranian government."
By Jason Abbruzzese
A group of hackers believed to be linked to the government of Iran tried to access email accounts associated with a U.S. presidential campaign, Microsoft announced Friday. The company said that it had seen "significant cyber activity" from a group of hackers that it believes "originates from Iran and is linked to the Iranian government." Microsoft said that its threat-tracking operation found the group attacked 241 email accounts associated with current and former U.S. government officials, journalists, prominent Iranians outside Iran and one U.S. presidential campaign. Microsoft did not name the campaign that was targeted. The company said that the attack on the campaign was unsuccessful but that the hackers were able to access four accounts not associated with the campaign or the current and former government officials. Tom Burt, vice president of customer security and trust for Microsoft, wrote in a blog post that the Iran-linked group, which the company refers to by the name Phosphorous, gathered information about people in an attempt to trick them into falling for phishing schemes, in which the group attempted to use password reset or account recovery features to take over accounts.

BBC News - The new Brexit proposals unveiled by Boris Johnson have already provoked a wave of scepticism, both at Westminster and across the EU. The Prime Minister’s plan would involve controversial new customs checks on the island of Ireland. The Irish government says it has deep concerns, and the European Council president says he's unconvinced. In Westminster, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn has called the proposals worse than the ones agreed by former PM Theresa May. BBC News at Ten’s full report from Deputy Political Editor John Pienaar, with Europe Editor Katya Adler, and John Campbell talks to cross-border businesses worried about new regulations.

On the September 29 edition of Vesti Nedeli – News of the Week -- Dmitry Kiselyov’s Sunday news program on Russian state television, featured a segment on Russian involvement in the Central African Republic. The segment touched on the involvement of the Wagner Group, a Russian private military company, and the murder of three Russian journalists who had been investigating Wagner’s activities in CAR last year. Vesti Nedeli’s special correspondent Alexander Rogatkin visited a CAR military base where Russian instructors who train local soldiers were present, and spoke with a Russian man named Gennady Ivanov, who was identified as a “senior military instructor.” Ivanov said the Russian instructors have “no relationship to PMC Wagner,” and that they work “by contract.” However, he did not specify on whose contract they were working there. This denial is problematic, given that Russia has laws banning “mercenary activities.” While two articles of Russian law prohibit mercenary activities and creation of unlawful military groups, it allows such firms to operate under the umbrella of military consulting and security guards. Wagner claims to be exactly that -- a private military company providing consulting and security guard services. Independent journalists in Russia uncovered connections between a mercenary group dating back to 2013 and a former GRU officer Dmitry Utkin who went by the alias “Wagner."

A pair of GOP operatives who played major roles in Lewinsky-era political intrigue are back.
The Ukraine scandal engulfing Donald Trump’s presidency goes well beyond the core cast of characters at the heart of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. It’s now drawing in a duo familiar to anyone who has followed past Washington imbroglios: conservative lawyers and GOP operatives Joe diGenova and his wife, Victoria Toensing. And the scandal is beginning to reveal the opaque agendas of a pair of Ukrainian oligarchs whose legal troubles have led them to seek favors in Washington. DiGenova and Toensing, who played major roles in the Bill Clinton dramas of the 1990s and resurfaced amid Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, have signed up to represent Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian gas magnate who currently resides in Vienna pending extradition to the U.S. to face bribery charges. Last year, the married lawyers were briefly expected to formally join Trump’s legal team to defend him in the special counsel’s investigation, but those plans were quickly scrapped due to conflicts of interest with their existing clients. The couple resurfaced, however, working in conjunction with efforts by Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, to dig up dirt on former vice president Joe Biden. For Firtash — who is fighting extradition from Austria to the U.S. to face bribery charges — his involvement began at least as early as July, when he parted ways with Lanny Davis, the lawyer who guided Bill Clinton through a variety of investigations and now represents Michael Cohen, the former Trump fixer who confessed to tax evasion, campaign finance violations and lying to Congress, among other crimes. Firtash replaced Davis with Toensing and diGenova, a colorful and aggressive couple with a nose for scandal and skill at pushing a narrative through allies like John Solomon, the conservative columnist at the Hill who has been writing frequently about Hunter Biden’s activities in Ukraine and about Marie Yovanovitch, the veteran ambassador who was abruptly recalled in May amid attacks on her from Trump allies. DiGenova has gone on Fox News to attack Yovanovitch by name, claiming she had been privately telling others that the president was likely going to be impeached.

By Davey Winder
Be it the prohibition-era gangsters of the 1920s or the global war on terrorism, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been the primary U.S. investigative agency of the federal government with a responsibility to protect the nation. As part of what the FBI describes as being "a unique dual responsibility, to prevent harm to national security as the nation’s domestic intelligence agency and to enforce federal laws as the nation’s principal law enforcement agency," it has increasingly had to deal with the cyber threat. One "high impact" and ongoing cyber threat has become such a critical concern that on October 2, the FBI issued a warning to U.S businesses and organizations. What is the high-impact threat to U.S. business? The FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) last posted a warning about ransomware on September 15, 2016. Then it was urging victims to report ransomware incidents to federal law enforcement to help paint a detailed picture of the threat. The threat landscape revealed has been a constantly changing one. The frequency of attacks has remained relatively consistent, but the nature of them has not. The FBI reports that the incidence of indiscriminate ransomware campaigns, such as evidenced by WannaCry on May 2017, has "sharply declined." However, losses from ransomware have increased significantly as the attacks become "more targeted, sophisticated and costly." Ransomware attacks against state and local governments have been hitting the headlines a lot of late. Take the case of the State of Texas which came under a coordinated ransomware attack, with 23 government agencies taken offline as a consequence, for example. Schools have also come under attack as they are increasingly seen as a soft target by the criminal enterprises behind the ransomware campaigns.

Why did it take a whistleblower to get our attention?
The Ukraine whistleblower illuminated and solidified a story that was buried in reports dating several months back.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday defended President Trump over accusations the U.S. leader pressured Kiev to dig up dirt on a rival, saying there was "nothing compromising" in transcripts of the call. - Is Putin defending a Russian asset?

By Nathan Hodge, Olga Pavlova and Mary Ilyushina, CNN
Moscow (CNN) - Russian President Vladimir Putin poked fun at the ongoing political crisis in the US by joking about election meddling Wednesday.
When asked about concerns the Russia might interfere in the 2020 US elections, he replied: "I'll tell you a secret: Yes, we'll definitely do it," Putin said. "Just don't tell anyone," he added, in a stage whisper. Putin was appearing on a panel at Russian Energy Week, along with OPEC Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo and others. "You know, we have enough of our own problems," Putin continued. "We are engaged in resolving internal problems and are primarily focused on this." Moscow 'asked US to release details of conversation' Putin also commented on the scandal surrounding US President Donald Trump's July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, saying Moscow asked the White House to release details of his 2018 conversation with Trump in Helsinki. "Look, I haven't been president all my life, but my previous life taught me that any of my conversation can become public," said Putin when asked to about the Trump-Ukraine scandal and ensuing impeachment inquiry. "I always proceed from this."

Protesters lost control of a hose that was spraying red paint from a firetruck.
By Elisha Fieldstadt
A climate change protest in London involving 1,800 liters of fake blood went horribly wrong Thursday.

North Korea has confirmed it test-fired a new type of a ballistic missile, a significant escalation from the short-range tests it has conducted since May. The missile - which was able to carry a nuclear weapon - was the North's 11th test this year. But this one, fired from a platform at sea, was capable of being launched from a submarine. Being submarine-capable is important as it means North Korea could launch missiles far outside its territory. According to South Korean officials, the missile flew about 450km (280 miles) and reached an altitude of 910km before landing in the sea. That means the missile flew twice as high as the International Space Station, but previous North Korean tests have gone higher. It came down in the Sea of Japan, also known in South Korea as the East Sea. Japan said it landed in its exclusive economic zone - a band of 200km around Japanese territory. The test came hours after North Korea said nuclear talks with the US would resume. What do we know about this missile? The missile was launched from the sea soon after 07:00 on Wednesday (22:00 GMT Tuesday), about 17km north-east of the coastal city of Wonsan. North Korea's state news agency KCNA said on Thursday the missile was a Pukguksong-3 test-fired at a high angle, designed to "contain external threat and bolster self-defence". It added there was "no adverse impact on the security of neighbouring countries".

By Andrew Kaczynski and Em Steck, CNN
(CNN) - A newly unearthed letter from 2016 shows that Republican senators pushed for reforms to Ukraine's prosecutor general's office and judiciary, echoing calls then-Vice President Joe Biden made at the time. CNN's KFile found a February 2016 bipartisan letter signed by several Republican senators that urged then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to "press ahead with urgent reforms to the Prosecutor General's office and judiciary." The letter shows that addressing corruption in Ukraine's Prosecutor General's office had bipartisan support in the US and further undercuts a baseless attack made by President Donald Trump and his allies that Biden pressured the Ukrainian government to fire then Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin to stop investigations into a Ukrainian natural gas company that his son, Hunter Biden, sat on the board of. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden, nor is it clear whether Hunter was under investigation at all. Trump called the 2016 dismissal of the Ukrainian prosecutor "unfair" in his July 25 call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, saying, "A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved," according to the rough transcript of the phone call. The 2016 letter, sent by members of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, was signed by Republican Sens. Rob Portman, Mark Kirk and Ron Johnson, as well as Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin, Jeanne Shaheen, Chris Murphy, Sherrod Brown, and Richard Blumenthal and focused on longstanding issues of corruption in Ukraine and urged reforms of the government. "Succeeding in these reforms will show Russian President Vladimir Putin that an independent, transparent and democratic Ukraine can and will succeed," the letter reads. "It also offers a stark alternative to the authoritarianism and oligarchic cronyism prevalent in Russia. As such, we respectfully ask that you address the serious concerns raised by Minister Abromavičius. We similarly urge you to press ahead with urgent reforms to the Prosecutor General's Office and judiciary. The unanimous adoption by the Cabinet of Ministers of the Basic Principles and Action Plan is a good step." Kirk is no longer in Congress. But Johnson signed onto a letter with Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley last week to Attorney General Bill Barr asking him to investigate, in part, allegations surrounding Biden and Ukraine. Johnson's office did not respond to a request for comment. Portman's office did not comment. Ukraine's legislature voted to fire Shokin in March 2016, a month after the letter was sent. The letter was posted on the website of Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who in a tweet the same day expressed US support for anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine. "Ukraine's US friends stand w/#Ukraine in fight against corruption," Portman wrote. "Impt to continue progress progress made since #EuroMaidan." In December of 2015, in a speech to Ukraine's parliament, Biden made similar calls for changes to the judiciary and the General Prosecutor's office. "It's not enough to set up a new anti-corruption bureau and establish a special prosecutor fighting corruption," Biden said. "The Office of the General Prosecutor desperately needs reform. The judiciary should be overhauled."

By Courtney Subramanian, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – A whistleblower complaint centering on President Donald Trump's phone call with the Ukrainian president has spurred a number of allegations and counterallegations as Republicans and Democrats jockey for position amid an impeachment inquiry. At the heart of Congress' probe into the president's actions is his claim that former Vice President and 2020 Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden strong-armed the Ukrainian government to fire its top prosecutor in order to thwart an investigation into a company tied to his son, Hunter Biden. But sources ranging from former Obama administration officials to an anti-corruption advocate in Ukraine say the official, Viktor Shokin, was ousted for the opposite reason Trump and his allies claim. It wasn't because Shokin was investigating a natural gas company tied to Biden's son; it was because Shokin wasn't pursuing corruption among the country's politicians, according to a Ukrainian official and four former American officials who specialized in Ukraine and Europe. Shokin's inaction prompted international calls for his ouster and ultimately resulted in his removal by Ukraine's parliament. WASHINGTON – A whistleblower complaint centering on President Donald Trump's phone call with the Ukrainian president has spurred a number of allegations and counterallegations as Republicans and Democrats jockey for position amid an impeachment inquiry. At the heart of Congress' probe into the president's actions is his claim that former Vice President and 2020 Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden strong-armed the Ukrainian government to fire its top prosecutor in order to thwart an investigation into a company tied to his son, Hunter Biden. But sources ranging from former Obama administration officials to an anti-corruption advocate in Ukraine say the official, Viktor Shokin, was ousted for the opposite reason Trump and his allies claim. It wasn't because Shokin was investigating a natural gas company tied to Biden's son; it was because Shokin wasn't pursuing corruption among the country's politicians, according to a Ukrainian official and four former American officials who specialized in Ukraine and Europe. Shokin's inaction prompted international calls for his ouster and ultimately resulted in his removal by Ukraine's parliament.

Opinion by Peter Eisner
(CNN) - To be fair to Mike Pence, he probably never dealt with someone like Donald Trump before 2016. Now Pence is hearing Trump's critics compare the president to an organized crime boss. Whether or not he agrees, thanks to the movies, everyone knows how the game works and so the vice president surely had an inkling about President Trump's modus operandi. In fact, he had more than a hint of what was to come. "He was going into this with his eyes open," a source close to Pence told me in 2018 referring to Pence's decision to accept Trump's offer in 2016 to run for vice president. "He knew exactly who Trump was and what he faced." Pence already knew that Trump had come to the Republican nomination with lies and slander, starting with his campaign to claim that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States; and by 2016 Trump had denigrated Mexican immigrants, saying "They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people." But Pence's ambition was stronger than any possible concerns about the character of the man he would have to support, and wavered but did not back out even after the Access Hollywood tape was published in October 2016. Pence and his wife had already prayed for guidance—and decided he had a purpose and a mission, from God, to serve the country as vice president, said the source. "Once he got to that point, he never looked back." Pence should have expected that at some point his patron would make him get his hands dirty. It may have happened in the case of Trump's scandalous, and perhaps impeachable, request that Ukraine investigate his political rival Joe Biden. Trump's Ukraine gambit appears to be a variation on classic extortion that started with his decision to freeze the roughly $400 million in military and security aid approved to help Ukraine fight its ongoing war against Russian invaders. "I would like you to do us a favor, though," said Trump after Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky mentioned the aid in a phone call. Trump wanted Zelensky to look into the allegation that Ukrainians stole the Democratic National Committee email server during the 2016 campaign. This is a debunked conspiracy theory. He also asked Zelensky to work on the matter with Attorney General William Barr and Trump's own personal lawyer, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Although Trump's words were imprecise -- he never said "Do this or you don't get the $400 million" -- his meaning was clear. A White House memo reconstructing the conversation showed the president returned to the subject of investigating former Vice President Biden repeatedly during their talk, Zelensky promised that his yet-to-be-named chief prosecutor would look into the matter.

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN
Washington (CNN) - President Donald Trump is hardly acting like a very stable genius.
Instead, his unleashed fury, fact-bending rants and persecution complex are conjuring an image of someone seeing his presidency slipping through his hands. While current political conditions seem unlikely to lead to his ouster from office, Trump appears increasingly powerless to save himself from the historical scar of impeachment. He has crushed just about every norm since descending his golden escalator to launch his 2016 presidential campaign. Now he's reinventing how presidents deal with an existential scandal. And it seems to be leading him deeper into the darkness. Part of Trump's frustration may stem from the unusual nature of his current plight. Since taking office, Trump has kept Washington hopping, with his adversaries never knowing what wild gyration will rock the capital next. But in the week since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi formally initiated impeachment hearings, the President has seemed out of sorts. It is the Democrats who are doing all the running, and Trump can't catch up. "We are not fooling around," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff warned on Monday, in a grave news conference with Pelosi that contrasted with Trump's fireworks and turned on complex constitutional justifications for the Democrats' decision to seek the President's impeachment. The painful truth for Trump is that the machinery of impeachment is grinding on, and there is not much he can do about it. Convention suggests that Trump should ignore the storm and get on, like Bill Clinton did when impeachment threatened, to do the work of the American people. A President on thin ice ought to avoid any public behavior that deepens his jeopardy. That's not Trump's way. In a pair of combustible public appearances Wednesday -- alongside the unfortunate Finnish President Sauli Niinistö -- Trump, as he always does, met a crisis with all guns blazing. The President bickered bitterly with reporters, mocked his enemies with juvenile nicknames, twisted the facts of his own conduct and bemoaned how unfairly he'd been treated. His unhinged mood was encapsulated in an encounter between the President and Jeff Mason of Reuters, one of the most down-the-line and courteous reporters in Washington. Mason wanted to know the answer to the question that Trump refuses to address and that is at the center of the impeachment storm. What did he want from Ukraine's President if it was not, as it appears from a transcript of their July 25 telephone call, dirt on his potential 2020 election rival Joe Biden? When Mason, repeatedly but respectfully tried to follow up, Trump snapped: "Ask this gentleman a question. Don't be rude." "I've answered everything. It's a whole hoax, and you know who's playing into the hoax? People like you and the fake news media that we have in this country," the President added. For all of the tantrums and feuds and demagoguery and fury, it still shocks to see a President conducting himself this way, against the backdrop of the golden curtains of the East Room, scene of some of the most solemn, and decorous occasions in the history of the White House. Self-pity: When not raging, the President was feeling sorry for himself. "The political storm, I've lived with it from the day I got elected," he told a Finnish reporter, who drew gasps when she asked what favors he'd demanded from his visitor -- a backhanded reference to his attempt to get Ukraine to play in the 2020 election. "I have done more and this administration has done more than any administration in the history of this country in the first two-and-a-half years," Trump said, though the presidents whose portraits stare down at him in the White House every day might have begged to differ. "I'm used to it. For me it's like putting on a suit in the morning," Trump said of the tsunami of political disruption to which he has subjected the nation for nearly three years. In another comment that will astound the historians of the future, Trump tweeted on Wednesday that Democrats were wasting America's time with "BULLSHIT." Accusing Schiff of treason, which he did several times on Wednesday, without offering any credible justification for accusing a fellow American of this most heinous of crimes, is unlikely to deflect House Democrats from their process. Nor will the President's arguments that Schiff is making up details of conduct that are laid out in the transcript of Trump's call with Ukraine's President that he released himself. "Believe it or not, I watch my words very carefully. There are those that think I am a very stable genius," Trump said, though his furious mood seemed to suggest exactly the opposite.

By Lauren Frayer
When Martin Luther King Jr. visited the villa in Mumbai, India, where Mohandas Gandhi stayed in the 1920s, he had a special request: He wanted to spend the night in Gandhi's bedroom. It was 1959, 11 years after Gandhi's death. The house, called Mani Bhavan, where the Indian leader taught followers to spin their own fabric and where he launched satyagraha — his movement for truth and nonviolent resistance — had been converted into a museum. In an austere top-floor room where Gandhi's mattress and shoes still lay, King said he could feel "vibrations" of the Mahatma, or great soul. "[King] was booked in a very good hotel. But he said, 'I am not going anywhere else. I am going to stay here, because I am getting vibrations of Gandhi,' " recalls curator Usha Thakkar. So curators hauled in two cots, and the American civil rights leader and his wife, Coretta Scott King, spent the night next to Gandhi's vacant mattress. Afterward, Martin Luther King told All India Radio that he'd decided to adopt Gandhi's method of civil disobedience as his own. Now, six decades later, many black Africans are calling Gandhi a racist. #MeToo activists are questioning his sexual practices. Hindu nationalists are rejecting Gandhi's vision of a pluralistic India that is strengthened by diversity. Gandhi is still revered. He helped win India freedom from British colonial rule in 1947. But as the world marks what would be his 150th birthday on Wednesday, some of his habits and teachings are facing fresh scrutiny.

A proposed rule that recently completed review at the White House budget office will provide a framework for the broad collection of DNA from immigration detainees, a senior Homeland Security Department official told reporters Wednesday. The proposed rule, developed by the Justice Department, comes after the Office of Special Counsel found that federal border officials failed to collect DNA samples from detained criminal immigrants as required under federal law. The letter, sent by Special Counsel Henry Kerner in August, said that federal law enforcement agencies are required to obtain samples from detainees under the DNA Fingerprint Act of 2005.

By David Randall
NEW YORK (Reuters) - World equity benchmarks hit their lowest levels in a month Wednesday as signs of a slowdown in U.S. economic growth and weak earnings in Europe fanned fears that the U.S.-China trade war could push the global economy into a recession. A measure of U.S. manufacturing released Tuesday fell to its lowest level in more than 10 years, removing one of few remaining bright spots in the global economy and come just as Europe is seen as close to falling into recession. “The weakening conditions in Europe and the slowdown in China, it’s all adding up to the same thing essentially: worries that the global economy is slowing and giving investors reason to pause and take profits,” said Robert Pavlik, chief investment strategist manager at SlateStone Wealth LLC in New York. MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe .MIWD00000PUS shed 1.71%, following broad declines in Europe that pushed benchmark indices to their lowest levels in a month. The FTSE 100 index .FTSE slipped 2%, the largest drop across European regions.

by Jamie Ross - The Daily Beast
President Trump called Boris Johnson to ask for help in discrediting Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, The Times of London reports. Trump is said to have called Johnson on July 26, two days after the prime minister took office, and reportedly asked Johnson for help in gathering evidence to undermine the investigation into his campaign’s links to Russia. That call also was one day after Trump spoke to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in the phone call that sparked the impeachment proceedings against him. Trump also contacted the Australian prime minister for help with an investigation into the origins of the Mueller inquiry. The Times reports Attorney General William Barr arrived in London days after Trump’s call with Johnson to attend a meeting of the so-called Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance. Barr reportedly told British officials that he suspected the information that led to the Mueller investigation came from British agencies.

By David Reid
The World Trade Organization (WTO) has backed a U.S. request to impose tariffs on $7.5 billion of European goods, potentially sparking a new trade war across the Atlantic. Arbitrators from the WTO have granted President Donald Trump’s administration the right to levy billions against imports of European goods for what they say are illegal subsidies granted to planemaker Airbus by the European governments of Germany, France, Spain, and the United Kingdom. The U.S. first lodged complaints in 2004, related to the development of the Airbus A350 and A380 airplanes, the WTO said in a summary of its findings. The trade body rejected some claims made by the U.S. but did find that Airbus had “paid a lower interest rate for the A350XWB LA/MSF than would have been available to it on the market.” It also found that the European Union had failed “to take appropriate steps to remove the adverse effects or … withdraw the subsidy,” which had led to a “genuine and substantial” cause of serious prejudice to the United States’ interests. The WTO ruling added that the United States had suffered significant lost sales in the twin-aisle and very large aircraft markets.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing a series of final hearings before a decision is made on whether to charge him with corruption. His lawyers will try to persuade the attorney-general not to proceed with indictments for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three cases. Mr Netanyahu is alleged to have accepted gifts from wealthy businessmen and dispensed favours to try to get more positive press coverage. He has denied any wrongdoing. The attorney general is expected to reach a final decision by the end of December. The hearing comes just over two weeks after Israel's second general election in a year ended in deadlock. Mr Netanyahu has been tasked by the president with forming a governing coalition, but talks between his right-wing Likud party and the centrist Blue and White alliance of his rival Benny Gantz have stalled. What will happen during the hearings? A 12-strong legal team will mount a formal defence of Mr Netanyahu against the allegations of corruption that have plagued his most recent years in office. The hearings, scheduled to last four days and end on Monday, will take place at the justice ministry in Jerusalem in front of Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit.

By Adam Bienkov
Boris Johnson will on Wednesday make his formal offer to the European Union for a new Brexit deal. The offer, the key elements of which have been leaked to the Daily Telegraph's Peter Foster, is quite remarkable in that it appears to actually be designed for the EU to reject it. In summary Johnson's offer is that:     Northern Ireland temporarily remains aligned to EU trade rules for some agricultural and industrial goods. But Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK leaves the customs union. New checks will be imposed at two borders (between Northern Ireland and the Republic, and along the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.) Northern Ireland will be exempt from EU VAT rules and custom codes. After four years Northern Ireland will have the option of cutting off alignment with the EU. Every element of the plan runs against the EU's negotiating red lines. From the very start of this process, Brussels and Dublin have insisted that there must be no new border checks with Northern Ireland. This is a commitment that the UK government signed up when led by Theresa May. The EU has also been clear that the integrity of the European Single Market must be maintained and that there must be no get-out clauses for the UK a few years down the line. All of those red lines are broken by this offer. According to the Telegraph report, Johnson's chief of staff Dominic Cummings told senior aides that "if they reject our offer, that's it."

By Anthony Kuhn
North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile on Wednesday — possibly from a submarine — just days ahead of the expected resumption of nuclear negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea after a seven-month hiatus. South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff says the missile was fired from waters off the peninsula's east coast, near the port city of Wonsan, and traveled about 280 miles to the east before landing in the Sea of Japan. South Korea's National Security Council standing committee held a meeting after the test and voiced its "strong concern." This would appear to be the most powerful weapon North Korea has tested since a February summit in Vietnam between President Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un. That meeting ended without a denuclearization agreement. The test came just hours after North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui was quoted by state media as saying that working-level denuclearization talks would begin with a day of preparatory meetings on Friday, before getting underway on Saturday. Choe did not mention a possible venue for the talks. While Trump has downplayed Pyongyang's series of missile and rocket launches since then, Wednesday's test prompted speculation that talks could be delayed. North Korea has issued an ultimatum, threatening to abandon negotiations for good if the U.S. does not show a more flexible strategy and come to the table with concessions by year's end. Trump has indicated he is willing to adopt a "new method" in talks, and last month fired national security adviser John Bolton, the administration's chief opponent of partial denuclearization deals with both North Korea and Iran. The projectile fired Wednesday is believed to belong to North Korea's Pukkuksong, or North Star, class of submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM), believed first tested with solid fuel in August 2016. South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo told a parliamentary committee that the Pukkuksong class is capable of flying distances up to about 910 miles, but this time the missile was launched in a 565-mile high arc, shortening its horizontal trajectory. Solid-fuel SLBMs can be launched more quickly than liquid-fueled missiles and the underwater launch platform makes them harder to detect and target. North Korea is not known to be able to launch them from a submarine yet, but has used submersible barges for tests. The Pukkuksong class of missiles is intended to be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

By Kim Hjelmgaard and Deirdre Shesgreen, USA TODAY
Dua al-Showaiki has been in hiding in Turkey with her sister Dalal for the past three months. Recently, the sisters were told to go where they knew they never should: the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul where journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed last year. One year after the slaying on Oct. 2., 2018, of Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and critic of Saudi Arabia's government who disappeared inside the country's diplomatic offices in Turkey, his remains have yet to be found. A United Nations report concluded that there was "credible evidence" that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler who enjoys a close relationship with the Trump administration, masterminded the killing. The CIA concluded that the crown prince ordered the execution or at least bears some responsibility for the Saudi operatives who carried out the assassination. The crown prince denied in an interview with "60 Minutes" that he ordered the killing. The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned 17 Saudi officials for "rights abuses" connected to the case, but not the powerful crown prince – widely known by the initials MBS. President Donald Trump vetoed a push by lawmakers to ban some weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, which has used the arms to wage an offensive against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Turkish prosecutors, citing audio and other evidence, said that shortly after entering the consulate, Khashoggi was injected with a sedative, strangled, then dismembered in a killing that took less than seven minutes. Saudi Arabia admitted that Khashoggi died in its consulate but blamed his death on "rogue" Saudi agents. The al-Showaiki sisters' brush with officials from the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul came one night in August as they reported to a police station with two other Saudi nationals, both women, who also went into hiding in Turkey to escape a country with some of the most draconian laws in the Middle East.

By Kim Hjelmgaard, USA TODAY
Authorities in Ukraine on Tuesday opened an investigation into a former government prosecutor who is indirectly connected to allegations that have prompted Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. to launch an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Ukraine's State Bureau of Investigations (SBI) opened criminal proceedings against Yuriy Lutsenko over his possible abuse of power, the government agency said. It said that Lutsenko and other former lawmakers may have conspired to "provide cover" for illegal gambling businesses in Ukraine. Lutsenko disputes the allegations.

By Elliot Hannon
It’s now abundantly clear that President Trump is actively deploying the resources of the U.S. government explicitly to bolster his chances of reelection in 2020. The recent whistleblower complaint revealed one part of the two-pronged strategy: leverage U.S. military aid to Ukraine to compel the Ukrainian government to dredge up old allegations on political rival Joe Biden. The second aspect of the Trump vindication-through-vilification reelection strategy has led Trump and his allies to investigate the investigation by Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 election to try to muddy the water sufficiently that Trump looks clean by comparison—or by confusion. That effort is also being propelled by the power vested in the highest offices of the U.S. government, including, of course, the presidency. Yet another example, the New York Times reports, is a recent phone call made by President Trump to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison asking the foreign leader to assist Attorney General Bill Barr in the investigation of the Mueller investigation. “The discussion with [Australia’s prime minister] shows the extent to which Trump views the attorney general as a crucial partner,” the Times notes. “[T]he president is using federal law enforcement powers to aid his political prospects, settle scores with his perceived ‘deep state’ enemies and show that the Mueller investigation had corrupt, partisan origins.” If there was any inkling that this was an investigation being done in good faith of the origins of the Mueller investigation, the fact that the White House has reportedly buried the transcript of the call under layers of frivolous national security classification similar to its efforts to hide the Ukraine call indicates the Trump inner circle knows what they’re doing here is outside the law, certainly the spirit of it, and certainly doesn’t look good.

The U.S. provided about $1.5 billion in military aid to Kiev between 2014 and this past June, according to a Congressional Research Service analysis.
The military aid scandal that spawned the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump has a very different significance for Ukraine, where years of U.S. assistance have just begun to turn a ragtag army into a better-armed and professional force to counter Russian aggression. The U.S. has provided about $1.5 billion in military support to Kiev between 2014 and this past June, according to an updated analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. And Trump’s temporary cut off of the aid represented a significant setback for the country. "Ukraine would never be where it is without that support from the United States," said Ash Carter, who served as President Barack Obama’s defense secretary from 2015 to 2017. "Everything we were doing there to train their military forces, their National Guard, to improve the professionalism and reduce corruption in the defense ministry … all that was critical." Before the aid influx, “the Ukrainian military was in woeful shape,” said Mariya Omelicheva, a professor of national security strategy at the Pentagon’s National Defense University who specializes in the region. “There has been a tangible, measurable impact," added Omelicheva, who visited the Ukrainian training center in March. And beyond that, she said, the help created “an immeasurable, psychological impact — that the U.S. has our back." Now Trump’s aborted aid cutoff — first reported by POLITICO in late August — has mushroomed into a titanic political fight, centered on allegations that the president was using the military assistance as leverage to push Ukraine’s government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. House oversight committees are demanding more data from the White House Office of Management and Budget on when and how the decision to sever the aid arose, including requesting that some documentation be delivered to Capitol Hill by Tuesday. The military aid program has steadily shifted American support in recent years much more heavily toward security after economic development, loan guarantees and anti-corruption programs defined much of the support following Ukraine's independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The U.S. bumped up its military support in 2014, soon after a popular uprising ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Russian troops annexed the Crimean peninsula while fomenting a separatist uprising in eastern Ukraine's Donbass region. The vast majority of the funds, approved with bipartisan support in Congress, has financed items such as sniper rifles; rocket-propelled grenade launchers; counter-artillery radars; command and control and communications systems; night vision goggles; medical equipment; as well training and logistical support.

CNN - Former national security adviser John Bolton criticized President Donald Trump's strategy on North Korea during his first speech since leaving the White House. CNN's Brian Todd reports.

By Joyce Lee
SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean fighter jets flew a patrol on Tuesday over islands at the center of a dispute with Japan, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said at an event marking the founding of his country’s military, drawing an angry Japanese protest. South Korea showcased newly acquired F-35 stealth fighter jets to mark its Armed Forces Day as Moon tried to allay concerns that his policy of engagement with neighboring North Korea would weaken the South’s commitment to defense. He said the F-15K jets patrolled over the disputed islets called Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan, which are controlled by Seoul but claimed by both, risking inflaming strained ties between the neighbors. “Just a moment ago, the F-15K, the most powerful fighter-bomber in Northeast Asia, has returned from completing a patrol mission over our land Dokdo ... without any problems,” Moon told the military in a speech. South Korea’s defense ministry clarified that two of the four jets participating in the patrol flew over the islands. Japan strongly protested against the flight, one of its foreign ministry officials told Reuters on condition of anonymity. The Japanese official said the islands belonged to Japan historically and under international law and the patrol was unacceptable and deplorable, adding that Japan had asked South Korea not to conduct the flights. South Korea’s defense ministry said in a statement Japan had summoned a South Korean military officer to make its “unfair claims” over the islets. On Friday, South Korean officials had protested over Japan’s annual defense review that referred to Japan owning the islands. The foreign ministry summoned a military official at the Japanese embassy in Seoul to demand an immediate retraction. The neighbors have been locked in a worsening diplomatic and trade row rooted in wartime history and disagreements over compensation for forced laborers during Japan’s 1910-1945 occupation of Korea.

BBC News - An activist involved in anti-government protests in Hong Kong has been shot in the chest by police during a clash. The incident came as thousands of people demonstrated in defiance of a protest ban for the 70th anniversary of Communist rule in China. Though people have been shot by rubber bullets in previous protests, this is the first injury from a live round. In the Chinese capital Beijing, 15,000 soldiers paraded with advanced military hardware to mark the anniversary. Nearly four months of protests in Hong Kong have challenged Chinese President Xi Jinping's vision of national unity. Earlier, the Chinese flag was raised at a special ceremony in the territory. Security was tight and the 12,000 invited guests watched the event on a live video feed from inside a conference centre.  On what is being described by protesters as a "day of grief", people took to the streets in central Hong Kong and at least six other districts, blocking roads in some areas.

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