US Will Fail If It Tries To Split Europe, Says German Minister

 

US President Donald Trump “will not succeed” in dividing European nations against one another over trade, German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier warned on Sunday, ahead of a visit to Washington.

In the European Union, “we are a customs union and act collectively. It cannot be in the interest of the US government to divide Europe, nor will it succeed,” Altmaier told German business daily Handelsblatt.

For the close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, top of the agenda at meetings in the US capital will be Trump’s planned tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminium.

The US leader says the shock measures are in response to “unfair” trade practices, but the EU has vowed to retaliate — including with levies on imports of whiskey or motorcycles — raising the spectre of a tit-for-tat trade war.

“Companies and consumers on both sides would foot the bill if the US and Europe tumble into a trade war,” Altmaier said.

Meanwhile, countries like China that stand accused of flooding global markets with cheap steel would be “laughing on the sidelines”, he added.

In a statement, Saturday, Merkel’s office said the German leader had spoken with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The two backed continuing talks among the G20 group of industrialised and emerging nations on cutting steel overproduction which has so far had little impact.

Altmaier allowed that “global free trade is certainly not perfect yet,” adding that if Washington is unhappy “we have to talk about it rather than acting unilaterally.”

Responding to Trump’s threat to slap tariffs on German car imports if the EU retaliates over his metals levies, Altmaier added that “German cars are successful in all world markets because they’re so good. Higher border taxes would be the wrong response to that.”

AFP

Iran Rejects Any Change To Nuclear Deal

A handout picture provided by the office of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on December 31, 2017 shows Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani attending a cabinet meeting in the capital Tehran. PHOTO: IRANIAN PRESIDENCY / AFP

Iran on Saturday rejected any modification of its nuclear deal with world powers after US President Donald Trump demanded tough new measures to keep the agreement alive.

Iran “will not accept any amendments in this agreement, be it now or in the future, and it will not allow any other issues to be linked to the JCPOA,” the foreign ministry said in a statement, using the 2015 deal’s technical name.

Trump again waived nuclear-related sanctions on Friday — as required every few months to stay in the agreement — but demanded European partners work with the United States to “fix the deal’s disastrous flaws, or the United States will withdraw”.

He said the new deal should curb Iran’s missile programme and include permanent restrictions on Iran’s nuclear plants, removing expiration dates due to kick in after a decade.

But Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the 2015 deal could not be renegotiated.

“JCPOA is not renegotiable: rather than repeating tired rhetoric, US must bring itself into full compliance — just like Iran,” Zarif tweeted immediately after Trump’s speech.

The statement from his ministry further criticised new sanctions on 14 individuals announced by the US Treasury on Friday over human rights issues and Iran’s missile programme.

In particular, placing judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani on the sanctions list “crossed all red lines of conduct in the international community… and the government of the United States will bear responsibility for all the consequences of this hostile move”.

Iran argues that continued US sanctions on non-nuclear areas such as human rights and missile testing have effectively barred Iran from gaining many of the financial benefits expected from the deal.

Zarif has said Trump’s aggressive stance on the deal and Iran generally have also violated the commitment to “refrain from any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalisation of trade and economic relations with Iran” in the accord.

AFP

African Union Slams “Hurtful, Upsetting” Trump’s Remark

The African Union said on Friday that President Donald Trump’s reported description of African nations as “shithole countries” broke with “accepted behaviour” and was upsetting.

Ebba Kalondo, spokeswoman for AU Chairperson Moussa Faki, told AFP that Trump’s statement “truly flies in the face of accepted behaviour and practice.”

“This is not only hurtful, I think, to people of African origin in the United States, but certainly to African citizens,” she said.

AFP

Trump Cancels London Trip Over US Embassy’s ‘Peanut’ Price Tag

US President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting on prison reform in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, January 11, 2018. PHOTO: SAUL LOEB / AFP

US President Donald Trump announced on Friday that he will no longer attend the opening of the new US embassy in London, a move welcomed by critics in Britain who had planned mass protests.

He wrote on Twitter that he was abandoning the trip — initially scheduled for next month — because he did not like the location and price tag of the new building.

“Reason I canceled my trip to London is that I am not a big fan of the Obama Administration having sold perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London for “peanuts,” only to build a new one in an off location for 1.2 billion dollars,” Trump wrote.

“Bad deal. Wanted me to cut ribbon-NO!”

Trump has also been offered a state visit to Britain, and Prime Minister Theresa May’s office said Friday that nothing has changed, although no date has been set.

There had been strong opposition to the invitation, at first over Trump’s travel ban on Muslim-majority countries, and then most recently his re-tweet of a far-right organisation, Britain First.

“This is somebody who has promoted hatred and propaganda from a far-right organisation in this country,” said opposition Labour lawmaker Chuka Umunna, saying Trump’s decision not to come was “very welcome.”

Stephen Doughty, another Labour MP, tweeted: “Reason @realDonaldTrump cancelled the trip to London is that we are not a big fan of his racist, sexist, unthinking behaviour.

“Big protests if he came to cut the ribbon. He wanted the red carpet treatment and cheering crowds – NO!”

But leading Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage, who visited Trump following his election, said the decision was “disappointing”.

He said that plans for protests by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour mayor of London, Sadiq Khan — who has traded barbs with Trump on Twitter — may have been a factor.

“Maybe, just maybe, Sadiq Khan, Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party planning mass protests, maybe those optics he didn’t like the look of,” he said.

– South of the river –

Asked about Trump’s stated reasons for refusing to open the new embassy, Farage replied: “He’s the real estate guy.”

The decision to move the embassy from its prestigious location in Mayfair, central London, was taken by the administration of former Republican president George W. Bush in October 2008.

The new 12-storey, cube-shaped building, which is due to open to the public on January 16, has been built in a nondescript area south of the River Thames, which is now subject to a major regeneration project.

As recently as January 7, May reiterated that the state visit is still planned, saying “Trump is coming to the UK.”

However, relations between the pair have been strained since May became the first foreign leader to visit Trump following his inauguration in January 2017.

In November, she said the president was “wrong” to re-tweet anti-Muslim videos posted by Britain First, prompting an extraordinary rebuke from the White House.

“Don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom,” Trump hit back.

May stressed afterwards that Britain and the United States have “a long-term special relationship… it is an enduring relationship that is there because its in both our nations’ interests”.

AFP

US Congress Moves To Tackle Sexual Harassment

Gun Control, US Congress

The US Congress returned to Washington Monday after the Thanksgiving break determined to tackle sexual harassment within its ranks, following a string of allegations targeting sitting lawmakers.

Comedian-turned-Democratic-senator Al Franken, under scrutiny over multiple allegations of misconduct, offered a fresh apology as he arrived on Capitol Hill, while veteran Democrat John Conyers has stepped down from a leadership position over similar claims.

Compounding the discomfort on Capitol Hill, President Donald Trump — who himself has faced multiple accusations of harassment — has doubled down on his support for Roy Moore, the embattled Republican Senate candidate from Alabama who stands accused of molesting or harassing teenage girls as young as 14.

As Washington began coming to grips with the extent of the problem in its midst, following broader revelations of endemic sexual harassment in Hollywood and the media, Congress has taken steps to right a listing ship.

The Senate recently approved a resolution calling for mandatory anti-harassment training for all senators and staff. The House of Representatives votes on a similar measure this week.

With fresh allegations targeting two unnamed lawmakers, a congresswoman introduced a House bill that would overhaul the antiquated process for filing sexual harassment complaints in Congress to allow for greater transparency, accountability, and victim support.

The Congressional Office of Compliance acknowledged last week that it has paid victims over $17 million in more than 260 settlements since 1997.

But under current rules, accusers are required to sign non-disclosure agreements in order to initiate complaints, and any financial settlement reached is secret and paid for by US taxpayers.

Congresswoman Jackie Speier’s ME TOO CONGRESS Act would do away with such requirements, and force a lawmaker who settles a harassment claim to repay the government for the amount of the award.

“This is not a victim-friendly process,” Speier, herself a victim of harassment as a young congressional staffer, told ABC Sunday, referring to the existing system.

Speier’s legislation appears to have the support of top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who called for “an end to the days of secret settlements paid for by taxpayer dollars.”

– ‘No magic words’ –

On Monday, Senator Franken returned to Washington to face the scrutiny of his colleagues — including fellow Democrats who have long called out the president over the allegations of misconduct levied against him.

Franken has apologized repeatedly after a sports broadcaster and former model, Leeann Tweeden, accused him of kissing her, and touching her without consent as she slept during a tour entertaining US troops deployed in Afghanistan.

Three women have since come forward to say Franken touched their buttocks inappropriately.

“I know that I have let a lot of people down,” Franken told reporters outside his office in Congress. “To all of you, I just want to again say I am sorry.

“I know there are no magic words that I can say to regain your trust and I know that’s going to take time. I’m ready to start that process and it starts with going back to work today.”

Long a darling of the political left, Franken previously described a photograph that appeared to show him groping Tweeden’s breasts while she was asleep in body armor, as “inexcusable” — but has also insisted he would not leave the Senate.

Democratic leader Pelosi has also been forced to contend with one of her party’s major figures, congressman Conyers, who stands accused of sexually harassing staff members.

Targeted by a House Ethics Committee investigation, the 88-year-old Conyers, the longest-serving lawmaker currently in Congress, has left his post on the leadership of the Judiciary Committee.

“No matter how great an individual’s legacy, it is not a license for harassment,” Pelosi tweeted.

For Republicans, the broader debate on harassment is tied up with the allegations targeting Moore, who has refused to exit his Senate race despite the accusation he assaulted several teenaged girls.

The leadership of Trump’s Republican Party has withdrawn support for Moore, as have a number of senators, but the president himself has redoubled his support for the former Alabama judge.

Trump tweeted Sunday that “the last thing” Republicans need in the closely divided Senate is a Democrat like Moore’s rival Doug Jones, who he described as “WEAK” on crime, immigration, gun rights and tax reform.

AFP

President Trump Signs New Immigration Order

President Trump Signs New Immigration OrderPresident Donald Trump has signed a new executive order which placed a 90-day ban on people from six majorly Muslim nations.

The immigration order, which takes effect on March 16 to limit travel disruption, includes a 120-day ban on all refugees.

The number of affected countries was reduced from seven to six, following the exclusion of Iraq from the list.

People with valid visas would also be allowed to enter the U.S.

President Trump’s spokesman, Kellyanne Conway, had said a revised order was expected from the White House since the earlier ban was blocked by a Federal Court.

The previous order suspended the entire U.S. Refugee Resettlement Programme, and also blocked citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the country.

Although the decision sparked confusion among immigrants, but President Trump’s administration insisted that the ban was necessary to keep the U.S. safe from terrorism.

China To Increase Military Spending By 7% In 2017

chinaDays after President Donald Trump outlined a boost to the U.S defence budget, China has also announced that it will increase military spending by about seven per cent in 2017.

The scheduled announcement was made ahead of the annual National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing.

China has been modernising its armed forces recently as its economy expands but it’s announced defence budget remains smaller than that of the U.S.

Some observers however argue that the real figure could be much higher.

According to the BBC, the announcement marks the second consecutive year that the increase in China’s defence spending has been below 10 per cent, following nearly two decades at or above that figure.

President Trump Defends ‘Under-Fire’ Jeff Sessions

President Donald Trump Defends 'Under-Fire' Jeff SessionsAs pressure mounts on the U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions to resign, President Donald Trump has defended him, saying he is “an honest man”.

Mr Sessions is under fire for having denied at his confirmation hearing that he had contact with Russian officials.

President Trump, however, said Mr Sessions “could have stated his response more accurately but it was clearly not intentional”, and accused democrats of a “witch hunt”.

Mr Sessions also rescued himself from an FBI probe into alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. election.

He said he had spoken with the Russian Ambassador as a U.S. Senator and not as Mr Trump’s “surrogate”.

Meanwhile, the democrats maintained their attacks on Mr Sessions, saying his explanation regarding his contacts with the Russian Ambassador in 2016 were “simply not credible”.

Robert Harward Turns Down Trump’s NSA Offer

Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, US ElectionFew days after the U.S. National Security Adviser (NSA) resigned, President Donald Trump’s choice of replacement has rejected the offer to fill the position.

A White House official said the nominee, Vice Admiral Robert Harward (rtd), cited family and financial commitments as excuses.

The U.S. media, however, reported that the Mr Harward turned down the offer because he wanted to bring in his own team.

The latest setback comes hours after President Trump robustly denied media reports of White House disarray, insisting that his administration was running like a “fine-tuned machine”.

Sources said the former NSA, Michael Flynn, resigned after reports emerged that he misled the U.S. Vice President, Mike Pence, over his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.

UN Condemns Israel’s West Bank Settlement Plans

U.N. Warns Of Water Crisis In Nigeria's Megacity Lagos  The United Nations has condemned Israel’s plans to build more settlements in the occupied west bank.

A UN spokesman said “unilateral actions” are an obstacle to peace based on a two-state solution.

According to the BBC, on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said his government would build 2,500 more homes in Jewish settlements “in response to housing needs”.

It is the second of such announcements by the Israeli authorities since U.S. President Donald Trump took office.

Palestinian officials however say the plans undermine peace hopes by building on land what they want for a future state.

President Trump on the other hand, has indicated that he will be more sympathetic to settlement construction than his predecessor, Barack Obama, and has appointed a staunch settlement supporter as his ambassador to Israel.

Trump Offers Support As Storm Hits U.S State, Georgia

Trump Offers Support As Storm Hits U.S State, GeorgiaSevere weather has killed 11 people and injured 23 in the US state of Georgia, emergency officials say.

Governor Nathan Deal has declared a state of emergency in seven counties in south-central Georgia.

“I urge all Georgians to exercise caution and vigilance in order to remain safe and prevent further loss of life or injuries,” Deal said in a news release.

The Georgia Emergency Management Agency said the 11 victims were in the southern Cook, Brooks and Berrien counties.

More storms and a “tornado outbreak” are expected in northern Florida and southern Georgia, the National Weather Service says.

Four people were killed by tornadoes in Mississippi on Saturday.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has pledged federal assistance for Georgia, Florida and Alabama.

Trump said during a White House ceremony that he had spoken to Georgia Governor, Nathan Deal and planned to speak with Florida Governor, Rick Scott about the storms.

Trump said he expressed his condolences.

“The tornadoes were vicious and powerful and strong and they suffered greatly,” he said. “So we’ll be helping out.”

President Trump Signs Executive Order Targeting Obamacare

Donald TrumpPresident Donald Trump has signed an executive order which targets the signature health care reforms of his predecessor.

As part of first steps as president, the order directs agencies to ease the economic burden of the laws known as Obamacare.

The proclamation followed Mr Trump’s inauguration as the 45th President of the United States of America.

In Friday’s inaugural speech, the US President promised a new approach to governance, acknowledging that his oath mandates him to put Americans first.

He added that every decision during his administration would favour American workers and the masses.

President Trump also upheld his pre-election stance on terrorism and stressed the need to protect Americans from danger.

He stated that “America will start winning again like never before”, and promised to fight for the citizens with every strength in his body.