VIF News Digest: International Developments (13-19 August, 2018)
Gound-breaking night for women and diversity, while a Trump critic falls, 14 Aug 2018

Former Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota was soundly defeated Tuesday in his bid to reclaim the Republican nomination for governor, a remarkable upset that demonstrated President Trump’s tightening grip on his party and the difficulty those who have criticized him in the past are facing with today’s primary voters. Mr. Pawlenty, who called Mr. Trump “unsound, uninformed, unhinged and unfit to be president” in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election, lost to Jeff Johnson, a local official and former state lawmaker who was the Republican nominee for governor in 2014, The Associated Press reported.

On a night when voters in four states went to the polls, Democrats delivered ground-breaking primary victories for a transgender woman in Vermont, a Muslim woman in Minnesota and an African-American woman in Connecticut, while voters in Wisconsin nominated a top state education official, Tony Evers, to challenge Governor Scott Walker, one of the most vulnerable high-profile Republicans of the midterms cycle. Click here to read....

The New York Times joins effort to combat Trump’s anti-press rhetoric, 14 Aug 2018

The call to arms came in the form of a memo. Marjorie Pritchard, the deputy managing editor of The Boston Globe, reached out to editorial boards at other newspapers last week. “We propose to publish an editorial on August 16 on the dangers of the administration’s assault on the press and ask others to commit to publishing their own editorials on the same date,” the memo said.

As of Tuesday, more than 200 newspapers, including The New York Times, had signed on. The Globe’s effort to rally editorial writers across the country came in reaction to the President’s stepped-up attacks on the media. At a recent rally in Pennsylvania, Mr. Trump pointed to the group of journalists covering the event, saying they “only make up stories” and called them “fake, fake disgusting news.” On Twitter, he has revived an old phrase — “the enemy of the people” — to describe “much of the media” and “the Fake News Media.” Click here to read....

Trump revokes Ex-CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance, 15 Aug 2018

President Trump revoked the security clearance of John O. Brennan, the former CIA director under President Barack Obama, on Wednesday in a striking act of retaliation against an outspoken critic. The president threatened to do the same to other former national security officials who have antagonized him. Citing what he called Mr. Brennan’s “erratic” behavior and “increasingly frenzied commentary,” Mr. Trump dispatched Sarah Huckabee Sanders, his press secretary, to read a statement saying that Mr. Brennan had abused his access to the United States’ secrets “to make a series of unfounded and outrageous allegations.”

The statement came only a few weeks after Ms. Sanders warned that Mr. Trump was considering revoking the clearances of Mr. Brennan and others who he believed had politicized and inappropriately profited from their access to delicate information. Click here to read....

Dog Days: Trump and his toxic twitter insults of Omarosa, 14 Aug 2018

The President of the United States called someone a “dog” on Twitter Tuesday morning, another first for his debasement of Presidential rhetoric. It is, sadly, not a surprise. “Dog” has long been one of Trump’s favorite Twitter insults, and he is the first President in more than a hundred years not to have a dog as a pet in the White House (Trump once told his biographer Tim O’Brien that he considered all animals “germy”). A more or less complete list of those he has attacked with this label, just since his entry into national politics in 2015, includes: Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican Presidential nominee, who “choked like a dog”; David Gregory, the former host of “Meet the Press,” “fired like a dog!”; Chuck Todd, Gregory’s replacement as “Meet the Press” host, “who will be fired like a dog”; Ted Cruz, one of Trump’s opponents in the 2016 Republican primary, who “lies like a dog—over and over again”; Ted Cruz’s former communications director, “fired like a dog”; Brent Bozell, the conservative columnist at National Review, who “came to my office begging for money like a dog”; Erick Erickson, the anti-Trump conservative blogger, “fired like a dog”; Glenn Beck, the former Fox TV host, also “fired like a dog”; George Will, the conservative Washington Post columnist, “thrown off ABC like a dog!”; and Arianna Huffington, the liberal-Web-site founder, “a dog who wrongfully comments on me.” Click here to read....

Manafort jury adjourns for the weekend with no verdict, 17 Aug 2018

The jury in the tax and bank fraud trial against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort failed to reach a verdict Friday after its second day of deliberations. The jury had signaled in a note to Judge T.S. Ellis in the afternoon it would be going home for the weekend without a decision. The jury requested to be dismissed at 5 p.m. so one of its 12 members could attend a previously scheduled event. "I'm going to do that, maybe five minutes before," Ellis said Friday afternoon, shortly before dismissing the jurors.

Outside the courtroom, Manafort's lead defense attorney Kevin Downing said he's pleased to see the jury is taking their time and that he thinks a long deliberation plays in his client’s favor. Click here to read....

Dem campaign chairman expresses confidence over path to Senate majority, 17 Aug 2018

Senator Chris Van Hollen (Md.), the chairman of the Senate Democratic campaign arm, said turnout in recent primaries and growing support for Democrats among independents suggests the party has a strong chance of taking control of the Senate. Though Democrats face a difficult map that has them defending more than two dozen seats — including 10 in states won by Trump by double digits — Van Hollen says a path exists for Democrats to win the Senate majority.

“Everybody knows the odds are tough but the odds are getting better by the day,” he said on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program, which is set to air Friday night and over the weekend. “We’ve seen this growing momentum at the grass-roots level.” Click here to read....

India-US ties on upswing ahead of high-level talks, 13 Aug 2018

Apart from trade relations, India and the US appear to have overcome some rocky moments in their relationship ahead of the first high-level dialogue in the national capital next month. Foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale was in the US last week to do the groundwork for the dialogue to be held on September 6.

India and US are in discussions on bringing the US as a member of the International Solar Alliance (ISA), which would be a feather in New Delhi’s cap if Washington agrees. The Trump administration had walked away from the Paris Accord in 2017. With India getting a waiver in the CAATSA provisions and a tier-1 approval in the strategic trade authorization (STA) by the US, the atmosphere has improved considerably since the second postponement of the 2+2 talks spelt a downswing in the relationship.

India is ready to sign the second defense interoperability agreement, Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) with the US, second of three “foundational” agreements. However, the third agreement, Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), is still in progress, with sources saying that it may happen only by year-end. But with COMCASA, India and US can work together on areas like maritime domain awareness (MDA) etc., sources said. India signed the LEMOA in 2016, which allows them to use each other’s bases to replenish military supplies. Click here to read....

Russia, US and China on brink of an arms race in space, 15 Aug 2018

Fears that the US and Russia could embark on a news arms race in outer space are growing, after a US official voiced deep suspicion about Moscow’s pursuit of new space weapons. It comes just days after the US outlined plans for a new ‘Space Force’, which US Vice-President Mike Pence and Defence Secretary James Mattis said was vital to the country’s national interests.

Despite this, Yleem D.S. Poblete, US Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, told a UN Conference on Disarmament which is discussing a new treaty to prevent an arms race in outer space, that Russia’s pursuit of counterspace capabilities was “disturbing”. Russia has long maintained it is a priority to prevent an arms race in space, and signed a draft treaty to that effect with China a decade ago. Click here to read....

Did Donald Trump use the N-word?, 15 Aug 2018

Ongoing allegations that a tape of Donald Trump using the N-word have resurfaced, after the White House refused to deny that those tapes might exist. The Washington Post says that White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders “declined to vouch” for Trump, when asked directly if there was a tape recording of the US president using racial slurs, saying: “I can’t guarantee anything.” The Atlantic describes Sanders’ “non-denial” as “striking”, given that the “existence of such a tape has been rumoured since before the 2016 election”.

The alleged recording of Trump using racial slurs was purportedly recorded during the taping of his reality TV show, The Apprentice. Rumours of the recording have resurfaced after former White House aide Omarosa Manigault-Newman released her tell-all book about life inside the Trump administration. Click here to read....

End Russia investigation before election, say majority of Americans, 15 Aug 2018

Two-thirds of Americans want the investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election to conclude before the mid-term elections in November. The CNN poll “comes amid rebounding approval ratings for both President Donald Trump and [special investigator Robert] Mueller for their handling of the investigation, and a growing share of voters who say the investigation will matter to their vote this fall” reports the news channel.

While support for ending the probe before the midterms is likely to be seized upon by the Trump administration as positive proof that public opinion has turned against Mueller, “that is where they would be making a major mistake”, says CNN’s editor-at-large Chris Cillizza. Click here to read....

What to expect from the upcoming Putin-Merkel meeting, 17 Aug 2018

On Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, where the two leaders intend to hash over political and economic issues, Vedomosti reports. Germany has kept sanctions against Russia in place, imposed after the 2014 reunification with Crimea. However, in light of the mounting discord with Washington, ties between Moscow and Berlin are gaining momentum. In late July, the German Chancellor received Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov. Moreover, both leaders gathered in Sochi in May at Putin’s initiative.

Nevertheless, there are no signs of rapprochement, it is merely a working visit based on robust pragmatism, Head of the Center for German Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Europe Vladislav Belov told Vedomosti. "Merkel will continue to blame Russia for fueling the conflict in Ukraine, while echoes of the ‘Skripal case,’ the chemical weapons incident in Syria and ‘meddling’ allegations in the (2016) US election will definitely be heard at the meeting," the expert noted. Yet, Belov believes that both countries can reach compromises on several issues. Click here to read....

Trump declares cyber war on Russia, 17 Aug 2018

US President Donald Trump has reversed Barack Obama’s directive concerning cyber operations, responding to critics who blame the White House for its omission of “Russian hackers” writes Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

The Oval Office has eased the way to get approval for cyber attacks, Senior Researcher at the Center for International Information Security and Science and Technology Policy at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations Anatoly Smirnov told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "That will give Washington an opportunity to respond to emerging threats almost immediately.

Moreover, the move supports the assumption that the US establishment is getting strategically ready to implement a scenario involving the use of force to resolve disagreements with Russia," Smirnov pointed out. In this connection, he pointed to the CIA’s development of camouflage software to carry out cyber attacks, especially ‘false flag’ ones, as well as to the growing importance of cyberspace in the US’ hybrid warfare capability and the creation of a global digital surveillance system on social media. Another hint that the road is being paved for the use of force is Washington’s refusal to cooperate with Russia in preventing incidents in the IT sphere. Click here to read....

About 700 Chinese troops, 100 weapon systems to take part in Peace Mission-2018 drills, 16 Aug 2018

About 700 troops and over 100 pieces of military hardware of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army will take part in the Peace Mission-2018 international counter-terror drills in the Chelyabinsk Region in the Urals, the press office of Russia’s Central Military District reported on Thursday.

"On the part of the People’s Republic of China, the personnel of a mechanized company, a mixed artillery battery, a command and logistic company, and also a Special Forces group have arrived for the drills, about 700 servicemen in all. Besides, over 100 pieces of military and special hardware have been delivered by rail, including tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles, self-propelled howitzers, communications vehicles, and also logistic support vehicles," the press office said.

Currently, the military hardware and personnel are being unloaded and the servicemen from China are being stationed at basic field camps at the Chebarkul practice range. Click here to read....

Afghanistan expects Russia to help arrange talks with Taliban,
19 Aug 2018

Kabul expects that Moscow will succeed in convincing the Taliban movement (outlawed in Russia) to come to the negotiating table, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Russia Abdul Qayoum Kochai said at a press conference on Monday.

"Russia has also been maintaining contacts with the Taliban. [Head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Second Asia Department Zamir] Kabulov says Russia has contacts with the Taliban. If Russia really wants to help Afghanistan and has the ability to convince the Taliban to sit at the negotiating table with the Afghan government to resolve all issues, it would be good," the ambassador said. Click here to read....

Kommersant: Can former empires Russia, Turkey and Germany unite against the US?, 15 Aug 2018

Sanctions imposed by Washington on Russia and Turkey, along with trade tariffs against the European Union and Turkey, have triggered the political rapprochement between Moscow, Ankara and Berlin, Kommersant writes. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu showed mutual understanding on virtually all issues, including Syria, in the Turkish capital on Tuesday, and slammed Washington’s policy, which frightens the whole of Europe, the paper writes. Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel who earlier supported Turkey will meet in Germany at the end of this week, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erodgan will travel to Berlin in September.

According to Russian Ambassador to Turkey Alexei Yerkhov, the US sanctions have become a certain catalyst for closer ties between these countries. "The existing context prompts such contacts. The international arena is not becoming simpler, which means that it is necessary to meet and hold negotiations. That’s the bottom line of international diplomacy," he told Kommersant. Click here to read....

Conflict in Eastern DR Congo makes Ebola outbreak extremely dangerous: VOA, 14 August 2018

World Health Organization chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, says the raging conflict in North Kivu makes the Ebola outbreak in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo extremely challenging and presents dangers and difficulties not experienced since the historic 2014-2015 epidemic in West Africa.

WHO Director-General Tedros returned Sunday from a visit to Beni and Mangina, the epicenters of the Ebola outbreak in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. He says he was worried before he went on this mission, but he is more worried now after having observed first-hand the dangers and difficulties posed by the active conflict in North Kivu. Click here to read....

Chinese peacekeepers resolve in Juba Refugee Camps: africanews, 16 August 2018

The infantry battalion of China’s fourth peacekeeping force to South Sudan managed to resolve a conflict among refugees in Juba on Tuesday. The conflict was allegedly caused by a theft incident on Sunday in the third camp. Chinese soldiers intervened after receiving reports of knife fights between refugees next to the third UN refugee camp. A seriously injured refugee was immediately rescued by the Chinese military.

Shortly after the wounded were sent to hospital, refugees from the first camp crossed the barrier and fought with those from the third camp. Despite warnings from the peacekeepers, some refugees continued to attack their neighbours, forcing the commander to use tear gas to resolve the conflict. Two platoons of Chinese peacekeepers were dispatched to separate the refugees and the situation was brought under control. Click here to read....

Kofi Annan death: World leaders honour former UN chief – BBC News, 18 August 2018

Current UN chief Antonio Guterres hailed him as "a guiding force for good" and Russian President Vladimir Putin described a "remarkable person". Ex-US President Barack Obama said Annan had always pursued "a better world".
The Ghanaian national served as UN chief from 1997 to 2006 and is the only black African ever to hold the post. Since then he has served as the UN special envoy for Syria, leading efforts to find a solution to the conflict. Click here to read....

China/Africa health cooperation enhances medicine: africanews, 19 August 2018

The health cooperation between China and African countries is greatly promoting the development of the pharmaceutical industry on the continent. Today, more and more research institutions are getting in on the act.
In 2015, a team led by a Chinese Nobel laureate in biology, Chen Qiyu pioneered a new approach to malaria treatment.

“Through technological innovation in bio-engineering and production, as well as in the efficiency of the whole supply chain, we can effectively improve the ways of drug research development and reduce the cost of future medicine production,” Qiyu said. Click here to read....

Malians stage street protest over election results: Africa Feeds, 19 August 2018

Hundreds of Malians took to the streets on Saturday to demonstrate over last week’s Presidential run-off election results. Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was declared winner of the run-off which was disrupted by violence. He won with 67.17% of the votes. His opponent, the opposition candidate Soumaila Cisse, won 32.83% of the votes.But the opposition led by Cisse is disputing the results claiming fraud during the elections. Saturday’s mass protest was to put pressure on the President and his government over the alleged electoral fraud. Click here to read....

Ethiopia not withdrawing troops from Eritrea front lines yet: africanews, 19 August 2018

The Ethiopian government has officially spoken to reports about alleged withdrawal of its troops from the frontline with neighbouring Eritrea.

Some media reports late last week said Ethiopian troops were seen leaving the town of Shiraro, a key front in the Ethio-Eritrea war, the town is close to the town of Badme, a central contention of the war. Click here to read....

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