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Planned Parenthood to Defy Trump Abortion Referral Rule

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Federally funded family planning clinics, including Planned Parenthood, are defying the Trump administration’s ban on referring women for abortions, drawing a line against what they say amounts to keeping patients in the dark about legitimate health care options.

“We are not going to comply with a regulation that would require health care providers to not give full information to their patients,” Jacqueline Ayers, the group’s top lobbyist, said in an interview Tuesday. “We believe as a health care provider it is wrong to withhold health care information from patients.”

The fallout from the confrontation between the Trump administration and the clinics remains to be seen, but groups like the American Medical Association have been warning that many low-income women could lose access to basic services like contraception. Planned Parenthood’s announcement came on a day when it also replaced its president, although it’s unclear if there was any connection.

The Department of Health and Human Services formally notified the clinics Monday that it will begin enforcing the new regulation banning abortion referrals, along with a requirement that clinics maintain separate finances from facilities that provide abortions. The rule is being challenged in federal court, but the administration says there is currently no legal obstacle to enforcing it.

It’s part of a broader effort by the Trump administration to remake government policy on reproductive health.

In a statement, HHS did not address Planned Parenthood’s decision, but said the agency is committed to working with clinics so they can comply with the new rules. While abortion referrals are prohibited, HHS noted that clinicians can still offer neutral “nondirective counseling” on abortion.

With about 400 affiliated clinics, Planned Parenthood is the largest provider in the federal family planning program for low-income women, known as Title X. The program does not pay for abortions, but until now clinics had been able to refer women for the procedure. Planned Parenthood clinics have long been a target for religious and social conservatives closely allied with the administration because the clinics separately provide abortions.

Emergency funding

Planned Parenthood acted after its Illinois affiliate and an independent provider, Maine Family Planning, announced they were dropping out of the federal program. Planned Parenthood also abruptly announced the departure of its president, physician Leana Wen, who cited “philosophical differences” in a letter to the staff. Political organizer Alexis McGill Johnson was named as acting president.

FILE – Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen speaks during a protest against abortion bans outside the Supreme Court in Washington, May 21, 2019. Wen, who became the president in November 2018, was forced out of her job July 16, 2019.

Ayers said Tuesday that Planned Parenthood clinics will stop accepting federal money and tap emergency funding as they press Congress and the courts to reverse the administration’s ban. She said she’s not sure how long that backup funding will last.

The federal family planning program serves about 4 million women annually through independent clinics. Taxpayers provide about $260 million a year in grants to clinics. But that money by law cannot be used pay for abortions.

Court cases

The family planning rule is being challenged around the country in court cases that have yet to resolve the core issues involved. However, a nationwide preliminary injunction that had blocked the administration was recently set aside, allowing HHS to begin enforcing the rule.

Other administration regulations tangled up in court would allow employers to opt out of offering free birth control to female workers on the basis of religious or moral objections and would grant health care professionals wider leeway to opt out of procedures that offend their religious or moral scruples.

Abortion opponents welcomed the Trump administration’s action.

The religious conservative Family Research Council said in a statement the rule would “draw a bright line between abortion and family planning programs” and cheered the news that clinics that had been longtime participants are dropping out. That’s “freeing up funding opportunities for clinics that do not promote or perform abortions,” the statement said.

Social conservatives are a bulwark of President Donald Trump’s political base.

Abortion is a legal medical procedure, but federal laws prohibit the use of taxpayer funds to pay for abortions except in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the woman.

Another requirement of the Trump administration’s rule, to take effect next year, would bar clinics and abortion providers from sharing physical space.

Abortion rate

The AMA is among the professional groups opposed to the administration’s policy, saying it could affect low-income women’s access to basic medical care, including birth control, cancer screenings, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.

Religious conservatives see the regulation as a means to end what they call an indirect taxpayer subsidy of abortion providers.

Although abortion remains politically divisive, the U.S. abortion rate has dropped significantly, from about 29 per 1,000 women of reproductive age in 1980 to about 15 per 1,000 in 2014. Better contraception, fewer unintended pregnancies and state restrictions may have played a role, according to a recent scientific report. Polls show most Americans do not want the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion.

The Trump administration’s policy echoes a Reagan-era regulation that barred clinics from even discussing abortion with women. It never went into effect as written, although the Supreme Court ruled it was appropriate.

The policy was rescinded under President Bill Clinton, and a new rule took effect requiring “nondirective” counseling to include a full range of options for women. The Trump administration is now rolling back the Clinton requirement.

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Lebanon’s Hariri Signals Reservations Over IMF Proposals

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Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri on Tuesday signaled reservations about International Monetary Fund (IMF) proposals for Lebanon which he said included floating the Lebanese pound, which has been pegged at its current level for more than two decades.

Hariri was speaking on the first day of a three-day parliamentary session that is expected to approve a state budget that aims to slash the deficit, as a step towards putting Lebanese state finances on a sustainable path.

Lebanon has one of the heaviest public debt burdens in the world. The state’s main expenditures are the public sector wage bill, paying interest on its debt, and subsidising the loss-making state power company.

The government aims to slash the deficit through measures including a 3% point increase in tax on interest and a plan to issue low-interest treasury bonds.

Hariri was responding to criticism from MP George Adwan of the Lebanese Forces (LF) Party who noted reservations expressed by a recent IMF mission to Lebanon.

The IMF mission, in the concluding statement of an Article IV mission, said earlier this month that buying the proposed low-interest debt would worsen the central bank’s balance sheet and undermine its credibility.

It also said there should also not be any pressure on private banks to purchase the low-interest debt.

Addressing the plan to issue low interest bonds, Hariri said that he, the finance minister and the central bank had agreed “this matter would be conducted in a voluntary way by banks.”

“I know the IMF has some reservations, but also if we want to adopt everything the IMF does … (well then it also) proposes that we leave the Lebanese pound to float, that it go up and down as it wants,” said Hariri, asking whether this is what the Lebanese Forces wanted.

The LF is part of his cabinet, but plans to abstain from voting for the budget, saying it does not go far enough with reforms.

The IMF had also requested an increase of fuel excise in addition to an increase in VAT, Hariri said.

“I want to say that we always negotiate with the IMF in a way where we work for the interest of Lebanon, the interest of the Lebanese pound,” Hariri said.

The IMF, in its statement, said Lebanon should adopt revenue measures that include raising value-added tax (VAT) and increasing fuel excises as well as efforts to increase tax compliance.

It said the draft budget together with a plan to reform the power sector were “very welcome first steps on a long road.” But it said the 2019 budget deficit would likely be well above the government’s target of 7.6% of gross domestic product (GDP).

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US Imposes Sanctions on Myanmar Military Commander over Rohingya Abuses

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The United States on Tuesday announced sanctions on the Myanmar military’s Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing and other military leaders over extrajudicial killings of Rohingya Muslims, barring them from entry to the United States.

The steps, which also covered Min Aung Hlaing’s deputy, Soe Win, and two other senior commanders and their families, are the strongest the United States has taken in response to massacres of minority Rohingyas in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

FILE – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, June 25, 2019.

“We remain concerned that the Burmese government has taken no actions to hold accountable those responsible for human rights violations and abuses, and there are continued reports of the Burmese military committing human rights violations and abuses throughout the country,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement in making the announcement.

Pompeo said a recent disclosure that Min Aung Hlaing ordered the release of soldiers convicted of extrajudicial killings at the village of Inn Din during the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya in 2017 was “one egregious example of the continued and severe lack of accountability for the military and its senior leadership.”

“The Commander-in-Chief released these criminals after only months in prison, while the journalists who told the world about the killings in Inn Din were jailed for more than 500 days,” Pompeo said.

The Inn Din massacre was uncovered by two Reuters reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who spent more than 16 months behind bars on charges of obtaining state secrets. The two were released May 6.

The U.S. announcement came on the first day of an international ministerial conference on religious freedom hosted by Pompeo at the State Department that was attended by Rohingya representatives.

Rohingya from Myanmar walk past rice fields after crossing the border into Bangladesh near Cox’s Bazar’s Teknaf area, Sept. 1, 2017.

A 2017 military crackdown in Myanmar drove more than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to neighboring Bangladesh. U.N. investigators have said that Myanmar’s operation included mass killings, gang rapes and widespread arson and was executed with “genocidal intent.”

A United Nations investigator said this month that Myanmar security forces and insurgents were committing human rights violations against civilians that may amount to fresh war crimes.

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Undersea Quake Near Indonesia’s Bali Causes Panic, Minor Damage

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An undersea earthquake with a magnitude of 6.1 struck south of Indonesia’s Bali on Tuesday, the European earthquake monitoring agency EMSC said, causing minor damage and prompting residents and visitors on the tourist island to briefly flee buildings.

There were no reports of casualties and no tsunami warning issued by the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center or the Indonesian quake monitoring agency.

The epicenter was 102 km (62 miles) southwest of the island capital Denpasar and was 100 km (60 miles) deep, the EMSC said.

The U.S. Geological Survey recorded the quake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.7.

One resident said people in Denpasar ran out of their boarding house in pajamas after feeling the quake.

A Twitter user with the handle Indounik in the city of Ubud on Bali said the quake was “strong enough to make me adopt the drop, cover & hold approach recommended to survive a quake.”

Another Twitter user, Marc van Voorst, described the quake as feeling like “a heavy truck or train passing by at close range.” He said there was no panic, even though his hotel in the Uluwatu area shook quite a bit.

Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency distributed a photograph of damage at the Lokanatha temple in Denpasar, showing smashed masonry lying on the ground. Bali is a predominantly Hindu enclave in overwhelmingly Muslim Indonesia.

Lius Winarto, a sales administrator at the Mercure Hotel Nusa Dua, said by telephone a small part of the building’s roof had been damaged.

“We felt the quake quite strongly…but thankfully no one was hurt and there was only minor damage,” he said. “Everything has gone back to normal now.”

There was also minor damage at a school, a house and a temple in different areas on the southern side of Bali, according to online portal Balipost.com.

The quake could also be felt in other cities on the neighboring islands of Lombok and Java, Indonesia’s meteorology and geophysics agency said in a statement.

A roof of a mosque in the city of Banyuwangi in East Java also partially collapsed, another photo from the disaster mitigation agency showed.

The transport ministry said Bali airport was operating normally.

Indonesia suffers frequent earthquakes, sometimes causing tsunamis, because it lies on the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire.

Its Moluccas islands were hit by a powerful 7.2 quake on Sunday that killed at least two people and prompted hundreds to flee their homes.

The most devastating tremor in recent Indonesian history was on Dec. 26, 2004, when a magnitude 9.5 quake triggered a tsunami that killed around 226,000 people along the shorelines of the Indian Ocean, including more than 126,000 in Indonesia.

A tsunami also hit the city of Palu in Sulawesi last year, killing thousands.

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EU Slaps Sanctions on Turkey Over Gas Drilling Off Cyprus

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European Union foreign ministers on Monday turned up the pressure on Turkey after approving an initial batch of sanctions against the country over its drilling for gas in waters where EU member Cyprus has exclusive economic rights. 

The ministers said in a statement that in light of Turkey’s “continued and new illegal drilling activities,” they were suspending talks on an air transport agreement and would call on the European Investment Bank to “review” it’s lending to the country.

They also backed a proposal by the EU’s executive branch to reduce financial assistance to Turkey for next year. The ministers warned that additional “targeted measures” were being worked on to penalize Turkey, which started negotiations to join the EU in 2005.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu issued his own warning last week that his country would step up drilling activities off Cyprus if the EU moved ahead with sanctions. 

Two Turkish vessels escorted by warships are drilling for gas on either end of ethnically divided Cyprus.

The EU ministers repeated the “serious immediate negative impact” that Turkey’s illegal actions are having on EU-Turkey relations and called on Ankara to respect Cyprus’ sovereign rights in line with international law.

They also welcomed the Cypriot government’s invitation to Turkey to negotiate the borders of their respective exclusive economic zones and continental shelf.

Turkey doesn’t recognize Cyprus as a state and claims 44% of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone as its own, according to Cyprus government officials. Turkish Cypriots in the east Mediterranean island nation’s breakaway north claim another 25%.

Cyprus was split along ethnic lines in 1974 when Turkey invaded in the wake of a coup by supporters of union with Greece. A Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence is recognized only by Turkey, which keeps more than 35,000 troops in the breakaway north. Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, but only the internationally recognized south enjoys full membership benefits. 

Turkey contends that it’s protecting its rights and those of Turkish Cypriots to the area’s hydrocarbon deposits. Cypriot officials, however, accuse Turkey of using the minority Turkish Cypriots in order to pursue its goal of exerting control over the eastern Mediterranean region.

The Cypriot government says it will take legal action against any oil and gas companies supporting Turkish vessels in any repeat attempt to drill for gas. Cyprus has already issued around 20 international arrest warrants against three international companies assisting one of the two Turkish vessels now drilling 42 miles (68 kilometers) off the island’s west coast.

The Cyprus government has licensed energy companies including ExxonMobil, France’s Total and Italy’s Eni to carry out gas drilling in blocks, or areas, off the island’s southern coastline. At least three significant gas deposits have so far been discovered there.  

Meanwhile, Cyprus’ Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades will chair a meeting of political leaders Tuesday to discuss a renewed proposal by Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa AKinci to establish a joint committee with Greek Cypriots on managing offshore gas drilling activities.

Akinci has repeatedly called for the creation of such a committee that he says would give his community a say in how newly found gas deposits off Cyprus’ southern coast are managed and future proceeds are divvied up. A similar proposal was made by Akinci’s predecessor Dervis Eroglu in 2011. 

The Cypriot government says energy discussions with Turkish Cypriots should be part of overarching reunification talks, adding that Turkish Cypriot rights to the island’s energy reserves are assured. The government says future gas proceeds that will flow into an established hydrocarbons fund will be shared equitably after a peace deal is signed.

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Democrat Beto O’Rourke Trails Democratic Rivals in Cash Contest

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Former Democratic U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke raised a lackluster $3.6 million for his struggling presidential campaign in the second quarter of the year, his campaign said on Monday.

The fundraising haul was a warning sign for the Texas politician and a stark drop in campaign cash after he raised more than $9 million in two weeks the previous period.

O’Rourke, who entered the race after gaining national prominence in his failed 2018 bid for the U.S. Senate from Texas, has failed to gain traction in opinion polls.

Some two dozen Democrats are vying for their party’s nomination to challenge Republican President Donald Trump in the November 2020 election. The crowded nominating contest will require candidates to spend millions of dollars to be competitive.

U.S. Senator Cory Booker reported on Monday he raised $4.5 million in the three months ended June 30.

Booker’s haul, nearly a quarter of it raised in the four days after his strong appearance in the party’s first debate last month, lagged those of other Democratic contenders, including front-runner Joe Biden and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who each raised more than $20 million.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders raised $18 million in the second quarter.

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren brought in $19 million and spent $11 million, according to the report her campaign filed on Monday to the Federal Election Commission.

Senator Amy Klobuchar raked in just under $4 million.

Senator Kamala Harris, who has traded places with Warren as voters’ third and fourth choices in recent polling, said last week her campaign had raised $12 million.

By comparison, Trump and the Republican National Committee said they raised $108 million for Trump’s re-election campaign.

Trump made the unprecedented move to file for re-election the day he took office on Jan. 20, 2017, allowing him to spend the past two years building his re-election operation.

Candidates are required under federal law to disclose their donors and campaign expenses. The latest reports cover the second quarter of the year, which ended on June 30.

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Codebreaker Alan Turing To Be Face of New British Banknote

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Codebreaker and computing pioneer Alan Turing has been chosen as the face of Britain’s new 50 pound note, the Bank of England announced Monday.

Governor Mark Carney said Turing, who did ground-breaking work on computers and artificial intelligence, was “a giant on whose shoulders so many now stand.”

During World War II Turing worked at the secret Bletchley Park code-breaking center, where he helped crack Nazi Germany’s secret codes by creating the Turing bombe,'' a forerunner of modern computers. He also developed theTuring Test” to measure artificial intelligence.

After the war he was prosecuted for homosexuality, which was then illegal, and forcibly treated with female hormones. He died at age 41 in 1954 after eating an apple laced with cyanide.

Turing received a posthumous apology from the British government in 2009, and a royal pardon in 2013.

The U.K’s highest-denomination note is the last to be redesigned and switched from paper to more secure and durable polymer. The redesigned 10 pound and 20 pound notes feature author Jane Austen and artist J.M.W. Turner.

The Turing banknote will enter circulation in 2021. It includes a photo of the scientist, mathematical formulae and technical drawings, and a quote from Turing: “This is only a foretaste of what is to come, and only the shadow of what is going to be.”

Former lawmaker John Leech, who led the campaign for a pardon, said he was “absolutely delighted” by the choice.

“I hope it will go some way to acknowledging his unprecedented contribution to society and science,” he said.

 “But more importantly I hope it will serve as a stark and rightfully painful reminder of what we lost in Turing, and what we risk when we allow that kind of hateful ideology to win.”

 

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Zuma Testifies at Corruption Probe

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Former South African president Joseph Zuma is testifying at a judicial inquiry into corruption allegations against him during his time in office.

He told the panel Monday there is a conspiracy against him and that there is “a drive to remove me from the scene, a wish that I should disappear . . .”

The ex-South African leader said he has “been vilified” and has been a victim of “character assassination over 20 years.”

Raymond Zondo, the lead judge in the probe, said, “The commission is not mandated to prove any case against anybody, but is mandated to investigate and inquire into certain allegations.”  

Zuma was forced to resign from office last year by his African National Congress after being implicated in numerous corruption scandals, including using some $20 million in public funds for improvements at his private estate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Police Used Batons, Pepper Spray Against Protesters in Hong Kong

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Anti-government protesters who fought running battles with police inside a Hong Kong shopping center were “rioters,” city’s pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam said Monday.

Lam supported the actions of police force, saying that police and prosecutors will press charges following investigations.
 
Police used batons and pepper spray to disperse thousands of protesters who again took to the streets of a Hong Kong suburb Sunday to demand the complete withdrawal of a bill that would allow extraditions to mainland China, as well as Lam’s resignation.

The protest in Sha Tin was peaceful through most of the day, but scuffles broke out between police and the demonstrators as the day came to an end. Some protesters ran into a luxurious shopping complex where the scuffles continued.

Riot police try to disperse protesters inside a mall in Sha Tin District in Hong Kong, July 14, 2019.

Riot police continued to use pepper spray and batons to clear protesters from the mall while demonstrators were seen using umbrellas and other make-shift weapons to fight police.

Protesters have begun taking their marches to farther-flung areas of Hong Kong in an effort to reach the wider population. Sha Tin is located in the New Territories close to the border with mainland China, and is popular with mainland visitors.

Organizers said 110,000 protesters took part, while police put the

Hong Kong has been the site of demonstrations for weeks.

The protests began because of the controversial extradition bill that would have allowed the extradition of Hong Kong criminal suspects to mainland China and other countries.

After several weeks of controversy and large, angry street protests, Lam said in June that the extradition bill is “dead.”

But the protests have continued. Some are demanding Lam’s resignation, others an investigation into complaints of police violence and some called for genuine elections.

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Trump Tweets about Non-White Lawmakers Prompt Fresh Outrage

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In a series of Sunday morning tweets quickly deemed racist and xenophobic by critics, U.S. President Donald Trump has provoked fresh controversy with taunts at several new members of Congress.

Trump on Twitter, targeted Progressive Democratic Congresswomen, telling them to “go back” and help fix the “crime infested” countries from which they came.

So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly……

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2019

Of the four apparently targeted, only one — Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a native of Somalia — is foreign born. The other three are native Americans: Ayana Pressley (who is a representative from Massachusetts) was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a native New Yorker (and represents the eastern part of the Bronx and a portion of north-central Queens), and Rashid Tlaib, of Michigan, was born in Detroit.

FILE – Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, left, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Jan. 16, 2019.

The White House has not responded to a request from VOA on whether the president was aware prior to sending the tweets that three of the four are citizens by birth.

The progressives have been squabbling with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over immigration policy and other issues.

The dispute has attracted Trump’s attention in recent days, even prompting him to utter rare public support for Pelosi – at least when it comes to her attempt to rein in the newly elected foursome.

Trump’s tweets about the minority novice female members of Congress, known as ‘the squad,’ came about 20 minutes after a segment about them on the Fox News Channel. The president frequently reacts quickly on social media to what he sees on Fox.

FILE – Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., speaks at the 2019 Essence Festival at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, July 6, 2019.

Omar, in particular, has been a frequent topic of critical coverage on the cable television channel, in part due to her frequent criticism of Israel and comments perceived as anti-Semitic.

Omar and Tlaib are the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress.

In a Twitter response to Trump on Sunday, Omar reminded him that the United States is the only country to which members of Congress swear an oath.

“Which is why we are fighting to protect it from the worst, most corrupt and inept president we have ever seen,” added the Minnesotan.

Mr. President,

As Members of Congress, the only country we swear an oath to is the United States.

Which is why we are fighting to protect it from the worst, most corrupt and inept president we have ever seen. https://t.co/FBygHa2QTt

— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) July 14, 2019

Many on social media are condemning Trump’s tweet — which even by his provocative norms are viewed as crossing a new line.

Among the most prominent is Pelosi, who terms Trump’s remark xenophobic, “meant to divide our nation” and “reaffirm his plan to “Make America Great Again” has always been about making American white again.”
 

When @realDonaldTrump tells four American Congresswomen to go back to their countries, he reaffirms his plan to “Make America Great Again” has always been about making America white again.

Our diversity is our strength and our unity is our power. https://t.co/ODqqHneyES

— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) July 14, 2019

Trump made the series of tweets prior to emerging from the North Portico of the White House clad in dark pants, a white short-sleeved shirt and a red “Make America Great Again” ball cap.

U.S. President Donald Trump, in golf attire, departs the White House for the drive to his Trump National Gold Club in Sterling, Virginia, in Washington, July 14, 2019.

As his motorcade traveled to one of his private golf courses in northern Virginia, Trump took to Twitter again to refute what reporters described who had accompanied Vice President Mike Pence during a visit to two detention centers for migrants in Texas.

“Great Reviews!” declared Trump of the tour by politicians and media to the facility for children. He characterized the pen holding adult men as “clean but crowded.”

Friday’s tour showed vividly, to politicians and the media, how well run and clean the children’s detention centers are. Great reviews! Failing @nytimes story was FAKE! The adult single men areas were clean but crowded – also loaded up with a big percentage of criminals……

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2019

The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey, who filed the collective print report from the scene, described a guarded area where nearly 400 men were crammed behind caged fences with not enough room for all of them to lie down on the concrete floor.

“A stench from body odor hung stale in the air,” wrote Dawsey, who said some of the men screamed they had been held for more than 40 days.

At the location, Pence had commented “this is tough stuff” as a group of detainees shouted, “no showers.”

Trump has repeatedly warned that if he is unseated by a Democrat in next year’s presidential campaign that the opposition party would turn the United States into a socialist country and open its borders to dangerous immigrants.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey of voters released on Sunday shows Trump trailing the top four Democratic Party contenders in a hypothetical matchup.

Trump defied the polls in 2016 to defeat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the presidency.

 

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Heavy Rain Leaves Scores Dead in Nepal, India, Bangladesh

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Flooding and landslides triggered by heavy rainfall have killed at least 50 people in Nepal in the past few days, with more deaths reported across the border in India and Bangladesh, officials said Sunday.

At least 30 other people were missing in Nepal, either swept away by swollen rivers or buried by mudslides since monsoon rains began pounding the region on Friday, Nepal’s National Emergency Operation Center said.
 
The center said nine key highways remained blocked by floods and mudslides, and attempts were underway to open them up for traffic. Among them is the East-West Highway, which connects Nepal’s southern districts.
 
Other roads were being cleared by thousands of police and soldiers. Continuing bad weather has grounded helicopter rescue flights. Workers were also repairing fallen communication towers to restore phone lines.
 
Thirty people have been treated for injuries and more than 1,100 others rescued from flooded areas. More than 10,000 are estimated to have been displaced.
 
Nepal’s Department of Hydrology and Meteorology warned of more troubles ahead for the southern region near the main rivers, urging people to keep watch on rising water levels and move to higher ground when needed.
 
Rain-triggered floods, mudslides and lightning have left a trail of destruction in other parts of South Asia.
 
In Bangladesh, at least a dozen people, mostly farmers in rural areas, have been killed by lightning since Saturday as monsoon rains continue to batter parts of the low-lying country, according to officials and news reports.
 
Water Development Board official Rabiul Islam said about 40,000 people have been affected, mostly due to their homes being submerged underwater.
 
Bangladesh, a low-lying delta nation of 160 million people with more than 130 rivers, is prone to monsoon floods because of overflowing rivers and the heavy onrush of water from upstream India.
 
Officials in northeastern India said at least 14 people were killed and over a million affected by flooding, state official Kumar Sanjay Krishna said. Six deaths were reported in neighboring Arunachal state.
 
Assam’s Kaziranga National Park, home to the endangered one-horn rhinoceros, has been flooded.
 
Floods and mudslides have also hit some other northeast Indian states, including Meghalaya, Sikkim and Mizoram. In Mizoram, floods have submerged about 400 homes in the small town of Tlabung, police said.
 

 

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Syria Says Militant Attack Shuts Down Gas Pipeline

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Militants targeted a gas pipeline in government-controlled central Syria, putting it out of order Sunday, according to state media.

The SANA news agency didn’t name the attackers. The area in the central Homs province is close to where remnants of the Islamic State group are still holed up after losing all the territory they once held in the country.

SANA said technical teams are working to fix the pipeline, which links the Shaer fields to the Ebla processing plant. It did not elaborate on the extent of the damage or the nature of the attack.

The agency said the pipeline carries about 2.5 million cubic meters of gas to the processing plant and onward to power stations.

Islamic State militants briefly seized the Shaer fields in 2014 and 2016 before pro-government forces recaptured them in heavy fighting. Today much of Syria’s oil fields and infrastructure are held by U.S.-backed and Kurdish-led forces in the east.

In recent weeks, IS militants have increased their attacks against government troops, putting up checkpoints and ambushing convoys. While the government now controls over 60 percent of Syria, there is still a rebel stronghold in the northwest, where the government is waging a limited but stalled offensive. Smaller armed groups in northern, central and eastern Syria have vowed to target government and Kurdish-controlled facilities.

 

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Israeli Education Minister Backs Gay ‘Conversion Therapy’

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JERUSALEM — Israel’s education minister voiced support Saturday for so-called gay “conversion therapy,” drawing a disavowal from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose government’s religious-rightist tilt has worried liberals at home and backers abroad. 

Conversion therapy, an attempt to alter sexual orientation or gender identity through psychological, spiritual and, in extreme cases, physical means, has been widely discredited in the West and condemned by professional health associations such as the American Medical Association as potentially harmful. 

Rafael Peretz, an Orthodox rabbi and head of the ultranationalist United Right party who assumed the education portfolio in the Netanyahu-led coalition last month, said in a television interview he believed conversion therapy can work. 

“I have a very deep familiarity with the issue of education, and I have also done this,” he told Israel’s Channel 12 TV. 

‘Let’s think’

Giving an example of a gay person he said he had tended to, Peretz said: “First of all, I embraced him. I said very warm things to him. I told him, ‘Let’s think. Let’s study. And let’s contemplate.’ The objective is first of all for him to know himself well … and then he will decide.” 

The remarks sparked furor in Israel’s center-left opposition, which ahead of a September election has sought to cast Netanyahu as enabling Orthodox indoctrination in a country whose majority Jews mostly identify as secular or of less stringent religious observance. 

Israel’s LGBT Task Force, an advocacy group, demanded Peretz be fired, saying in a statement his views were “benighted.” 

Shortly after the interview aired at the end of the Jewish Sabbath, Netanyahu said he spoke to Peretz for “clarification.” 

“The education minister’s remarks regarding the pride community are unacceptable to me and do not reflect the position of the government that I head,” the premier said in a statement. 

Earlier furor

It was the second flap Peretz had caused in less than a week. Israeli media reported that he had told fellow Cabinet members on Tuesday that the intermarriage of Jews and gentiles in the diaspora amounted to a “second Holocaust.” 

The comparison stirred up anger among U.S. Jews, who are mostly non-Orthodox, and drew a rebuke from the Anti-Defamation League, which said such statements cheapened the Holocaust. 

Speaking to Channel 12, Peretz described himself as striving to balance respect for others, no matter their sexual orientation, with his duties as a religious leader. 

“I honor everyone as people. I admit that I, personally — I am a rabbi of Israel. Our Torah tells us other things. But that does not mean that I look about now and give them grades,” he said.