Russia includes China in biggest war games in decades

About 3,200 Chinese troops, more than 900 pieces of weaponry and 30 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters will participate in joint training to conduct fire strike and counterattacks, the Chinese Defense Ministry said.

Koalitsiya-SV tanks participate in Russia’s Victory Day military parade on May 9 in Red Square, Moscow. File Photo by Sergei Ilnitsky/EPA-EFE
AIWA! NO!//(UPI) — Russia began its war games — the largest show of military force since the height of the Cold War nearly four decades ago — Tuesday, amid heightened tensions with the United States.

The five-day military exercise known as the Vostok-2018 drills in Russia’s eastern and central military districts has mobilized almost a third of the country’s soldiers, making it the largest Russian or Soviet military exercise since 1981, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in a statement last month.

In addition to mobilizing 300,000 Russian troops, the exercise includes 1,000 aircraft and 36,000 military vehicles, South China Morning Post reported, which is the biggest show of force since Zapad-81 drills at the height of the Cold War.

The drills kicked off close to Russia’s border with China on Tuesday and will run through Saturday. The drills are underway at five military training grounds in Russia’s Far East region, and in the waters of the East Sea, the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk.

RELATED Trade deficit widens amid Trump tariff war

The demonstration of military might will include some joint exercises with the Chinese army.

About 3,200 Chinese troops, more than 900 pieces of weaponry and 30 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters will participate in joint training to conduct fire strike and counterattacks, the Chinese Defense Ministry said.

China’s participation will enhance its counterattack abilities and reinforce ties with Russia, Chinese government officials said Tuesday.

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“The focus of the drill has expanded from anti-terrorism to allied defense and counterattack,” a China defense ministry statement said. It also “signifies that the political strategic trust and military cooperation between China and Russia has reached a historic high.”

U.S.-China tensions have heightened with an ongoing trade war. U.S.-Russia tensions have also increased with the Pentagon recently sending more than 100 U.S. Marines to reinforce a coalition outpost in southern Syria after a threatened attack from Russia, according to U.S. officials.

“Cooperation in traditional security fields between China and Russia has a very clear target,” the United States, Song Zhoping, a Hong Kong-based military commentator, told the South China Morning Post. “Beijing and Moscow have to show Washington that they have an unbreakable strategic partnership.”

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WASHINGTON DC – Trump thanks Kim for his ‘unwavering faith in him’

The United States President Donald Trump
The United States President Donald Trump

Trump thanks Kim for his ‘unwavering faith in him’

AIWA! NO!The United States President Donald Trumpon Thursday thanked North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for his “unwavering faith” in him and said that the two will work together.
Trump took to Twitter to write, “Kim Jong Un of North Korea proclaims “unwavering faith in President Trump.” Thank you to Chairman Kim. We will get it done together!”

According to Yonhap, the North Korean leader Kim via a South Korean envoy said that his faith in Trump has remained unchanged.

READ RELATED:Kim Jong-un agrees to denuclearise ‘by end of Trump’s first term’, promises third Korean summit to be held this month

This comes after the North Korean leader met with delegations from South Korea at Pyongyang where talks regarding denuclearisation negotiations were held. Kim was revealed to the delegations that he was still firmly committed to the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

Who Is Barbara Res? Ex-Trump Organization Executive Talks Trump Tower Russia Meeting

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In an interview with CNN on Monday, Barbara Res, a former executive of the Trump Organization, said there is no way the president did not know about his son’s Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer in June 2016.

When asked if it makes sense that President Donald Trump would not have been informed about the meeting, she said “Impossible!,” adding, “In my opinion, based on my experience working with Trump, and everybody that worked for Trump. Something major, something newsworthy, something press-worthy would also go before Trump. Always.”

“Is it possible that Donald Trump Jr. might have — that as a child of Mr. Trump, would have more latitude than an employee?” the interviewer Anderson Coope asked to which she responded, “No, you know, the reason Trump Kr. is in the position he’s in, Ivanka is in the position, Jared, is that Trump has historically believed that he is better served by having family members, even if they’re not quite as qualified.”

“But I think that perhaps he may even be harder on family members. I know he was harder on Ivana when she worked for him. I have a feeling he probably might have been harder on Donald when he didn’t do — Donald Jr. — when he might not have done what he was supposed to,” she said.  “From my point of view, Donald Jr. would definitely have gone to his father. I think he would have said in advance, look what I’ve got. We’re going get something on Hillary.”

Anderson Cooper 360°

@AC360

“Impossible.” Barbara Res, a former Trump Organization executive, says there is no chance Donald Trump would not have been informed of the Trump Tower meeting before hand https://cnn.it/2AlUN0S 

Recently, Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen also claimed that Trump had prior knowledge about the meeting with the lawyer who promised damaging information about then-Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. However, the president denied it.

Res was the manager of construction on Trump Tower, however, during the 2016 presidential election, she publicly opposed Trump and his presidential candidacy. She also accused him of being a “supreme sexist” by saying “He’s terribly sexist. He’s a womanizer for sure. He hired me for a specific reason: Because I was really good. And he told me, and he believed this, that women had to work harder and be smarter and were willing to work harder than men, and that’s what he wanted.”

In an interview in 2016 she said they were close during the construction of Trump Tower, however, she claimed he was abusive by saying he yelled at her all the time. She also said his ability to withstand criticism and honesty shrank as his fame grew.

“He got way too famous and, you know, people were telling him he was great and he was buying that. He started thinking that he walked on water, he really did,” she said.

In 2017, after reading an article on Trump exhibiting signs of mental illness, she emailed a letter to the New York Daily News stating, “Being the team who was charged with building Trump Tower, we all knew Donald Trump very well, especially myself. To a person, we all agreed that the characteristics outlined in the article fit Donald to a T.”

trump Barbara Res, a former executive of the Trump Organization for nearly 20 years said there is no way Donald Trump didn’t know about the Trump Tower meeting. In this image, Trump speaks during the swearing-in ceremony for new U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, July 30, 2018. Photo: REUTERS/Brian Snyder

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Fake news and data manipulation causing a ‘democratic crisis’ say British MPs

Revelations about the extent of Russian interference in foreign elections – including hacking and  spreading disinformation – are just the tip of the iceberg, MPs have warned

The digital, culture, media and sport committee said the country was facing a “democratic crisis” because fake news and manipulated data were becoming so pervasive. The MPs want tougher regulation of social media companies – and a public register for political advertising.

theresa-may
British Prime Minister Theresa May

Reporting Trump’s first year – fascinating insight into journalists on the ropes

I have a guilty secret.Every so often, I retreat to Greggs for a Steak Slice, sausage roll, cup of tea and a read of last Saturday’s New York Times.tmaytrump

I get quite excited by the Anglo-American mixture of it all.

Why last Saturday’s New York Times? – I don’t hear you cry.

Well, it would be a bit OTT for me to have each day’s NYT delivered to me. So I have an arrangement with the local W.H.Smith’s whereby they hold each Saturday’s edition for me. Sometimes I get a bit behind with reading them. I caused some consternation recently when I took seven back copies to the Isles of Scilly to peruse on holiday. We were nearly into excess baggage territory. There was some fear that the ship might start taking in water as a result of the extra weight. But I do eventually read them.

Essentially, if you want to know what’s going on in the world, then read the New York Times. The sheer width and depth of articles they carry, on all manner of subjects, is staggering.

Anyway, the BBC have just finished airing an excellent series of documentaries which follow the NYT journalists and editors during the first year of Trump.

If you haven’t seen the series then it is worth watching it on BBC iPlayer where the last three episodes are available to view for the next week or so. The series is called “Reporting Trump’s First Year – The Fourth Estate”.

It is a thoroughly fascinating series which shows the team going through the process of reporting on Donald Trump as President. It sees them dealing with Trump’s attacks on “fake news” – of which the NYT is meant to be purveyor-in-chief.

Looking back on it, one is reminded how we are numbed by Trump. He does and says so many outrageous things that we have become quite inured to him.

That is dangerous.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

President Trump Grateful to Kim Jong Un as North Korea Repatriates Remains of U.S. Soldiers

The handover follows through on a promise North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made to President Donald Trump when the leaders met in June and is the first tangible result from the much-hyped summit. Trump welcomed the repatriation and thanked Kim in a tweet.

The United Nations Command said 55 cases of remains were retrieved from North Korea. The White House earlier confirmed that a U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft containing remains of fallen service members had departed Wonsan, a Northern coastal city, on its way to the Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, near the South Korean capital of Seoul. A formal repatriation ceremony will be held there Wednesday.

At the air base, U.S. servicemen and a military honor guard lined up on the tarmac to receive the remains, which were carried in boxes covered in blue U.N. flags.

About 7,700 U.S. soldiers are listed as missing from the 1950-53 Korean War, and 5,300 of the remains are believed to still be in North Korea. The war killed millions, including 36,000 American soldiers.

U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, in a statement from the U.N. Command, called the retrieval mission successful. “Now, we will prepare to honor our fallen before they continue on their journey home.”

Following the honors ceremony on Wednesday, the remains will be flown to Hawaii for scientific testing. A series of forensic examinations will be done to determine if the remains are human and if the dead were American or allied troops killed in the conflict.

Trump late Thursday tweeted the repatriation was occurring and said, “After so many years, this will be a great moment for so many families. Thank you to Kim Jong Un.”

Officials in North Korea had no comment on the handover on Friday, the 65th anniversary of the end of the Korean War, which the country celebrated as the day of “victory in the fatherland liberation war.”

Despite soaring rhetoric about denuclearization before Kim and Trump met in Singapore, their summit ended with only a vague aspirational goal for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula without describing when and how that would occur.

The repatriation of remains could be followed by stronger North Korean demands for fast-tracked discussions to formally end the war, which was stopped with an armistice and not a peace treaty. South Korea’s Defense Ministry also said the North agreed to general-level military talks next week at a border village to discuss reducing tensions across the countries’ heavily armed border.

The U.S. military last month said that 100 wooden “temporary transit cases” built in Seoul were sent to the Joint Security Area at the Korean border as part of preparations to receive and transport remains in a dignified manner. U.S. Forces Korea spokesman Col. Chad Carroll also said, at the time, that 158 metal transfer cases were sent to a U.S. air base and would be used to send the remains home.

The remains are believed to be some of the more than 200 that North Korea has held in storage for some time, and were likely recovered from land during farming or construction. The vast majority of the war dead, however, have yet to be located and retrieved from cemeteries and battlefields across the countryside.

Efforts to recover American war dead had been stalled for more than a decade because of a standoff over North Korea’s nuclear program and a previous U.S. claim that security arrangements for its personnel working in the North were insufficient.

From 1996 to 2005, joint U.S.-North Korea military search teams conducted 33 recovery operations that collected 229 sets of American remains. The last time North Korea turned over remains was in 2007, when Bill Richardson, a former U.N. ambassador and New Mexico governor, secured the return of six sets.

The North marked Friday’s anniversary with ceremonies at war-related memorials; the capital Pyongyang and other cities were decked out in national flags and bright red banners. For the first time since 2015, Kim Jong Un has announced a general amnesty will be granted for prisoners who have committed crimes against the state.

North Korea has held out the return of remains as a symbol of its goodwill and intention to improve ties with Washington. Officials have bristled, however, at criticism from the U.S. that it seeks to profit from the repatriations by demanding excessive fees for handling and transporting the remains.

Pyongyang has nevertheless expressed its willingness to allow the resumption of joint search missions in the country to retrieve more remains. Such missions had been held from 1996 until they were cancelled by President George W. Bush amid heightening tensions over the North’s nuclear program in 2005.

Post Kim-Trump summit talks between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and senior North Korean officials got off to a rocky start earlier this month, with the North accusing the Americans of making “unilateral and gangster-like” demands on denuclearization. The North also said U.S. officials came up with various “conditions and excuses” to backtrack on the issue of formally ending the war.

“The adoption of the declaration on the termination of war is the first and foremost process in the light of ending the extreme hostility and establishing new relations between the DPRK and the U.S.,” the North’s Korean Central News Agency said in a statement on Tuesday, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “Peace can come only after the declaration of the termination of war.”

Pompeo said Wednesday that a great deal of work remains ahead of a North Korea denuclearization deal, but he dodged requests to identify a specific denuclearization timeline in testimony to members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Experts say a declaration to officially end the war, which could also involve Seoul and Beijing, would make it easier for Pyongyang to steer the discussions with Washington toward a peace treaty, diplomatic recognition, security assurance and economic benefits. Some analysts believe that North Korea would eventually demand that the United States withdraw or dramatically reduce the 28,500 troops it keeps in South Korea as a deterrent.

Washington has maintained Pyongyang wouldn’t get sanctions relief and significant security and economic rewards unless it firmly commits to a process of completely and verifiably eliminating its nuclear weapons. There are lingering doubts on whether Kim would ever agree to fully relinquish his nukes, which he may see as a stronger guarantee of survival than whatever security assurance the United States could offer.

President Donald Trump has announced a $12 billion bailout to farmers who have become collateral damage in the trade war he started.

But, as one Minnesota farmer put it, bailout is just a Band-Aid.
Soybeans from a farm in southern Minnesota. With China having put a tariff on American soybeans, in retaliation for U.S. tariffs aimed at curbing what
JIM MONE • ASSOCIATED PRESSSoybeans from a farm in southern Minnesota.
With China having put a tariff on American soybeans, in retaliation for U.S. tariffs aimed at curbing what President Donald Trump says are unfair trade practices, the Trump administration plans to provide aid to American soybean farmers.

Faced with a self-inflicted wound that is hurting agriculture, manufacturers and, not incidentally, his party’s chances in November, President Donald Trump has announced a $12 billion bailout to farmers who have become collateral damage in the trade war he started. It is truly, as one Minnesota soybean farmer put it, “a Band-Aid on an arterial bleed.”

Trump started this, recall, by saying that trade wars were easy to win. That is proving not to be the case. Much of what has ensued since he started antagonizing U.S. trade partners around the world was predicted by those who know this terrain far better. What started early this year with punitive tariffs on a few dozen products has cascaded to more than 10,000, damaging trade relationships and disrupting markets in the process.

In response, even Wisconsin Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson ripped Trump’s policies, saying, “This is becoming more and more like a Soviet-type of economy.”

Now Trump is clearly looking for ways to limit the impact on American producers and consumers. But the bailout is a bad proposal. It sets an unsustainable precedent, creating expectations that other industries will be able to tap taxpayer resources to offset the cost of Trump’s trade assaults. It also won’t begin to mitigate the harm to farmers. This week, a Star Tribune reporter found a pair of soybean farmers who, between the two of them, have seen their crops lose $350,000 of value as China’s retaliatory tariffs took hold and soybean prices plummeted.

One also must question where this money comes from. Congress appropriates money to federal agencies, usually with some purpose in mind. How was Trump able to lay hands on an unencumbered $12 billion? And what congressional directives will be left unfulfilled from the funds he is diverting to buy time with this nation’s farmers?

Of course, there is the strong likelihood that the $12 billion itself is more Trumpian smoke and mirrors than reality. As Republicans and farmers alike pushed back against the notion of a handout instead of a solution, Larry Kudlow, head of the president’s National Economic Council, quickly downplayed the figure. Kudlow told one interviewer, “I don’t think it’s going to get near to $12 billion. I think the sums are going to be much lower.”

Trump has asked for patience, and as evidence that he is beginning to turn things around, pointed to a deal struck with the European Union on Wednesday. But that too requires close scrutiny. As with other “agreements” Trump has reached with North Korea and China, there may be less here than meets the eye. Many details have yet to be worked out.

Still, any rapprochement between this administration and Europe is welcome. For now, it does temporarily halt extra tariffs between the two entities as talks continue. Trump has backed off his threat to extend tariffs to automobiles. In return, the E.U. has promised to buy more American soybeans. Of course, there is good reason for that. The punishing level of Chinese tariffs has made devalued U.S. soybeans a bargain on the world market.

Perhaps more important, the E.U. negotiations show that Trump is attempting to de-escalate tensions as he pushes for the elimination of tariffs that he believes hurt the U.S. That is a sensible move that, it must be pointed out, would have been entirely unnecessary if he had pursued a more strategic, diplomatic path. Still, this country will need its allies if it is to refocus its efforts on China, whose long-standing pattern of intellectual property and trade transgressions must be broken.

You may recall that there was another quieter, more diplomatic effort to remove tariffs and cut other barriers to trade that was years in the making. It was the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP. Trump pulled the U.S. out of TTIP shortly after taking office.

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