Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Trump faces ‘alternative facts’ from Putin in the Middle East - FT | Sponsors of Syria talks in Astana strike deal to protect fragile ceasefire: "Neither the Syrian government nor the Syrian opposition present at the talks in Astana endorsed the final document." - The Guardian | Breaking News: Trump plans to keep Comey as director of the FBI. The agency is investigating Trump's associates. - NYT

First Published on 1/24/17, 10:15 AM | Updated on 4:00 AM 1/25/2017


Financial Times

Trump faces 'alternative facts' from Putin in the Middle East
Financial Times
After six years of war in Syria, Russia and Turkey have brought government and rebels together in Kazakhstan, face-to-face for the first time, but at opposite sides of the same room glaring at each other. These talks in Astana are most unlikely to ...

Trump faces ‘alternative facts’ from Putin in the Middle East - FT

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After six years of war in Syria, Russia and Turkey have brought government and rebels together in Kazakhstan, face-to-face for the first time, but at opposite sides of the same room glaring at each other. These talks in Astana are most unlikely to bring peace to Syria — but they will probably cement realignment, leaving the US substantially out of the regional picture from the Levant to Libya.
True, unlike at previous talks in Geneva, convened by the US and Russia under UN auspices, there are mainstream rebel fighters at the table rather than the five-star hotel rebels who have so signally failed to build a cohesive opposition and alternative government. Moscow’s ally in Syria, Iran, is minding the government delegation, while Turkey — until now set on toppling the regime of Bashar al-Assad — is supposed to be prompting the rebels. Everyone notionally agrees Astana is a bridge to resumed UN-run talks in Geneva next month; it could just as easily be a bypass. Either way, this is a diplomatic dance orchestrated in all its essentials by the Kremlin.
President Donald Trump and his team talk about what they are pleased to call “alternative facts”. The master of the Kremlin he so admires, President Vladimir Putin, is busy with his friends creating alternative facts across the Middle East.
“Putin intends to start the post-Obama chapter in Syria on his terms, confronting the new American administration with the fait accompli of [Assad] regime victory in Aleppo,” writes Fabrice Balanche of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “On the diplomatic front, the new Turkey-Russia-Iran alliance threatens to marginalise other outside actors.”
It was Nato ally Turkey’s tilt towards Russia and Iran, the architects of the Assad regime’s victory in retaking rebel-held eastern Aleppo, that changed the strategic equation in Syria. 

The U-turn by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan followed nearly a year of estrangement from Mr Putin, which came close to war after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane near its border in November 2015.
Ankara and Moscow made up after the failed military coup in Turkey in July, in time for Turkish forces to thrust into north-west Syria, clearing Isis jihadis from almost 100km of its porous border. 

But Turkey needed Russia’s blessing to pursue its real aim: stopping Syrian Kurdish fighters, allied with the US against Isis, from moving westwards across the river Euphrates to join up their eastern and western territories.

Now, even though Ankara is purveying “alternative facts” to disguise its shift on Syria, Turkey no longer seeks the removal of Mr Assad. “The facts on the ground have changed dramatically,” Mehmet Simsek, Turkey’s deputy prime minister told an audience in Davos last week. “Turkey can no longer insist, you know, on a settlement without Assad,” he said. “It’s not realistic”.
Mr Putin, for whom Syria is arguably about securing Russian superpower parity with the US, has just signed long-term leases with the Assad regime for naval and airbases in Syria. Iran and its militia proxies face an unpredictable but hostile Trump administration. 

Tehran may be trying to replicate its success with Lebanon’s Hizbollah — the most potent paramilitary organisation in the world — with the militia coalitions it has stitched together in both Iraq and Syria.

President Trump will have to make decisions about these emerging new facts on the ground. He may want to tilt towards Mr Putin, allying against Isis and Islamist extremism, and hoping Moscow can restrain Tehran’s muscle-flexing across the region. But that would have collateral costs, not least in Europe and within Nato.
For the moment, the US is a bystander to Russia’s “alternative facts” in the Middle East. Moscow is, for instance — along with another traditional US ally, Egypt — shifting support in Libya away from the UN-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli towards a former Gaddafi general.
Mr Trump’s one ostensible attempt to create alternative facts on the ground in the Middle East — a lurch towards Israel’s irredentist government endorsing more settlement-building on occupied Palestinian land and a pledge to move the US embassy to Jerusalem — would alienate Washington’s Arab allies. In Saudi Arabia, the ruling House of Saud, as custodians of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, would have to react robustly. Jordan’s Hashemite monarchy, descended from the house of the Prophet Mohammed, who in Muslim belief rose to heaven from Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock, is guardian of the city’s Islamic holy places, by tradition and by the 1994 treaty with Israel. Any challenge to the religious status quo in the holy city strikes at the heart of Hashemite legitimacy.
These are all facts too, and the Trump administration would be wise to consider them.


Translation: @ Lin_Manuel gets the news of his # Oscar2017 nomination in the middle of the recording of Mary Poppins in London. The statement was issued. Study it carefully, poco lenin e poco stalin. Zeleporcas.

"Neither the Syrian government nor the Syrian opposition present at the talks in Astana endorsed the final document." - The Guardian

"The opposition objects to Iran being involved in monitoring the ceasefire, arguing that its militia and Lebanese Hezbollah were largely responsible for most of the ceasefire breaches across Syria. 

The Iranians had objected to a call in the draft communique for foreign militia to leave the country.

However, Turkey urged the opposition, weakened aftera crushing defeat in east Aleppo, not to block the trilateral commission. Turkey insists the commission could prove to be a viable Russian-backed way of forcing the Syrian government and Iranians to stop the breaches. 

“There will be no signing,” said Yahya al-Aridi, an opposition spokesman. “The guarantor countries, that is, Russia, Turkey and maybe Iran, will just release a document.”" 


Story image for astana talks from The Guardian

Sponsors of Syria talks in Astana strike deal to protect fragile ceasefire

The Guardian-4 hours ago
UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura speaks to the media on the second day of peace talks in Astana. Photograph: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty ...
Draft of Document on Astana Talks Not Provided to Armed ...
Local Source-Sputnik International-10 hours ago
The Latest: Trump willing to work with Russia against IS hours ago 


Iran, Russia, Turkey say will jointly enforce Syria ceasefire

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No major deals likely at Astana talks on Syria

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Participants in the Syrian peace talks attend a meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan, Jan. 23, 2017. (photo by REUTERS/Mukhtar Kholdorbekov)
Author: Amberin Zaman Posted January 23, 2017
Turkey warned that there are no quick solutions to Syria’s six-year conflict as peace talks bringing together the warring sides and their regional backers kicked off Monday in the Kazakh capital Astana.
Summary⎙ Print
 The Syrian sides are making no promises at the peace talks in Astana, and despite their joint support for a political solution, neither are Turkey and Russia.
“A solution in one or two days should not be expected,” Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said, signaling concerns that the latest stab at peace may well fail.
The immediate purpose of the talks sponsored by Russia and Turkey is to solidify the shaky cease-fire that has largely held despite occasional violations throughout Syria.
The rebels led by Mohammad Alloush, a leading figure in the Jaish al Islam (Army of Islam) faction and Syrian government representatives led by the country’s envoy to the United Nations, Bashar al-Jafaari, did not hold face-to-face talks and relied on Turkey and Russia to relay their messages instead.
The language used by the sides was hardly promising: Jafaari referred to the rebels as “terrorists” and Alloush said that the rebels’ preferred choice was a political solution but that it was “not the only one.”
The United States, citing transition business, declined to take part at the last minute and Ahrar al Sham, one of the most powerful rebel groups with close ties to Turkey, said it wasn’t coming either, citing regime violations of the cease-fire in the Wadi Barada area near Damascus.
Still, it is the first time that armed opposition groups have parlayed with the government, albeit from separate rooms. The talks are also meant to lay the groundwork for a future round of United Nations-sponsored discussions that are due to be held in Geneva next month.
And whatever the outcome, the Astana meeting showcases the realignment of key actors in the conflict, above all Turkey.
Ankara has arguably paid a higher price than any for the carnage in its backyard, hosting three million Syrian refugees and facing the wrath of the Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the New Year’s Eve attack on an Istanbul night club that claimed 39 lives.
Kurtulmus recently acknowledged that Turkey’s woes were in part self-inflicted, calling its policy of backing Syrian rebels seeking to overthrow the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad “wrong.”
In a bid to reverse course, Turkey has in recent months bowed to Russian demands to withdraw its support for the rebels in Aleppo, allowing the regime to regain control over Syria’s second-largest city seen as key to any victory. The quid pro quo was that Russia would not stand in Turkey’s way as it cleared IS from its borders and also pursued the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) around the IS-held town of al-Bab.
Russia long advocated for the participation of the YPG-affiliated groups in the peace talks but it went along with Turkey’s demands that they not come to Astana.
Washington, which previously sided with Turkey on the matter, now says the YPG’s political arm, the Democratic Union Party, must be represented. More critically, Turkey’s hopes that the new US administration will heed its calls to scotch the US alliance with the Syrian Kurds and team up with Turkish troops and their rebel proxies in a planned offensive against the IS “capital” Raqqa instead will likely be ignored.
Turkey’s three-month-old offensive to capture al-Bab, part of an effort to keep the Syrian Kurds from linking up territories under their control, is hardly burnishing its credentials. Progress has been slow and Turkish casualties are mounting despite sustained Turkish airstrikes that have destroyed entire sections of al-Bab and killed at several hundred civilians, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Syrian Kurdish officials speaking anonymously told Al-Monitor there is growing evidence that Turkey is willing to let Syrian regime forces to finish the job instead. “The regime is getting closer to al-Bab by the minute and Russian airstrikes are clearing their path,” one of them said. “It’s the only outcome acceptable to Iran.”
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Helicopter crashes in mountains of central Italy with six people on board

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Russia, Turkey and Iran agree to jointly monitor ceasefire in Syria in step towards ending violence

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Bashar Jaafari, the government’s representative, immediately hailed the talks a success but the opposition said it still had major reservations.
The 14-member rebel delegation objected to the inclusion of Iran, which they said could not be a credible monitor as its proxies on the ground had repeatedly violated the ceasefire.
In particular they singled out Tehran-backed Lebanese Shia militia Hizbollah for carrying out attacks on the Wadi Barada valley outside Damascus, which has been fought over fiercely since the Dec 30 truce came into force. 
“The rebels do not trust Russia. This will be a test to see how much they can control their ally (Iran),” Asaad Hanna, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army, told the Telegraph. “They presented themselves as moderators so they must moderate them.”
Iran has a great stake in the war - providing the manpower and resources that have helped Bashar al-Assad’s government. It has bolstered the regime in order to maintain its influence and secure a supply route through the country for Hizbollah in neighbouring Lebanon.
It sees the conflict in Syria as part of a broader Sunni-Shia struggle.
Such a deal seemed difficult to imagine a year ago, when the last peace talks in Geneva collapsed without agreement. 
It is the first time in the six-year-war that the armed rebels and the government had sat in the same room as each other, albeit briefly.
Talks between the two sides have seen greater success with the detente between Russia and Turkey and the sidelining of the United States. Negotiations between Moscow and Washington had been characterised by deep divisions and mistrust between the former Cold War foes
Steffan de Mistura, the UN”s envoy to Syria who has been brokering the talks in Astana, had welcomed the idea of a trilateral commission to create accountability. “We didn’t have it in the past, that’s the reason why often we failed.”
The three sponsors also agreed to joint efforts to combat Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) and the need for more moderate rebels to distance themselves from Islamist groups. 
But even as talks took place in the Kazakh capital, the situation of the ground was in flux.
Jaish Fateh al-Sham, a jihadist group which formerly had links with al-Qaeda, launched an attack on moderate rebels represented at the talks in Astana. 
The attack by JFS targeted Free Syrian Army groups in northwestern Syria in Idlib, the rebellion's main territorial foothold after the opposition's defeat in Aleppo last month.
JFS surrounding the headquarters of the large rebel faction Jaish al-Mujahideen in Idlib province.
Jaish al-Mujahideen’s commander told Reuters the "extremely fierce" attack aimed to "eliminate the revolution and turn it black", a reference to the black flag flown by the jihadists in Syria.
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Persia & Armenia Music - YouTube

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Published on Mar 27, 2014
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WATCH LIVE: Oscar nominations announced - YouTube

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lock stock and barrel - Google Search

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#TCH15 - Winners Concert I: Lucas Debargue - YouTube

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Published on Aug 21, 2015
Discover the XV International Tchaikovsky Competition:

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#TCH15 Follow the XV International Tchaikovsky Competition in video with excerpts from each rounds !

Full concert here :!/xv-internatio...

The XV International Tchaikovsky Competition's Winners' Concert

Lucas Debargue plays
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - Sentimental Waltz, Op. 51 No. 6
the Mariinsky Theatre Symphony Orchestra conducted by Valery Gergiev

Recorded at the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, on July 2, 2015.
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Встреча с губернатором Свердловской области Евгением Куйвашевым • Президент России

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С губернатором Свердловской области Евгением Куйвашевым.
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С губернатором Свердловской области Евгением Куйвашевым.

Dmitry Masleev - Saint Saens, Danza Macabra (Arr. Horowitz) - YouTube

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Published on Dec 4, 2014
Secondo premio ex-aequo al 14° Concorso internazionale di interpretazione pianistica "Giuliano Pecar" 2014

Trump Would Not Stop Investigations into Russian Contacts

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At his first White House briefing Monday, new Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked about U.S. intelligence agencies investigating contacts between people close to President Donald Trump and members of the Russian government.
Asked if Trump would stop those investigations now that he is in charge of the federal government, Spicer told reporters, “[Trump] He has not made any indication that he will stop any investigation of any sort.”
The Central Intelligence Agency, the FBI, the National Security Agency and the Treasury Department have assembled a task force to investigate alleged increased Russian espionage and other activities, including Kremlin-ordered cyber attacks to interfere in the U.S. presidential election. During the campaign, investigators collected communications between people close to then-Republican nominee Trump and surrogates of the Russian government.
Michael Flynn, White House national security adviser, attends "2017 Passing the Baton" conference at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, Jan. 10, 2017.
Michael Flynn, White House national security adviser, attends "2017 Passing the Baton" conference at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, Jan. 10, 2017.
Two calls between Flynn, Kislyak
The Wall Street Journal was the first to report that U.S. intelligence agents were also looking into the content of calls between Trump's newly sworn-in National Security Advisor, retired General Michael Flynn, and the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak. Reports say Flynn called Kislyak in late December, around the same time the Obama administration announced sanctions against Russia in retaliation for its alleged use of cyber attacks to interfere in the elections.
U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the cyber attacks into Democratic National Committee emails to discredit Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Spicer told reporters Monday there had only been two calls between Flynn and the Russian ambassador, and they focused on four subjects: setting up a phone call between Trump and Russian President Putin, exchanging holiday pleasantries, Flynn expressing his condolences for those killed in a Russian plane crash, and the possibilities of Russia and the U.S. working together to combat Islamic State.
Former counterterrorism official Malcom Nance told VOA that Trump needs to answer questions about his relationship with Russia raised by U.S. intelligence reports and by Trump's strong public support for Putin and many of his foreign policy views.
Russia's ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak, speaks with reporters in Washington, Jan. 13, 2017.
Russia's ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak, speaks with reporters in Washington, Jan. 13, 2017.
Question about airstrikes
In Monday's briefing, Spicer answered questions on a wide range of topics. Asked about a Russian report that the U.S. and Russia are conducting joint airstrikes in Syria, Spicer referred the reporter to the Pentagon for an answer.
But he added, "I think if there's a way we can combat ISIS with any country, whether it's Russia or anyone else, and we have a shared national interest in that, sure, we'll take it."
A Pentagon spokesman denied the Russian reports, saying: "The Department of Defense is not coordinating airstrikes with the Russian military in Syria.”
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Senate confirms Mike Pompeo as CIA director

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Russia Is a Terrible Ally Against Terrorism

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It’s often said that the United States practices counterterrorism with a scalpel while Russia uses a chain saw. That has been made clear in Syria, where Airwars, a London-based monitoring group, estimates that Russian airstrikes cause civilian deaths at a rate eight times that of United States-led coalition missions. While Mr. Trump was pilloried during the campaign for suggesting that the United States murder the families of terrorists, that has long been standard practice in Russia, along with “disappearing” and extrajudicially killing suspects. Consequently, the Muslim-majority Russian republics of Dagestan and Chechnya still smolder after decades of rebellion and oppression; other Russian Muslim communities seethe.
The experience in the Caucasus and the rest of Russia underscores the dangers of Moscow’s approach. President Vladimir V. Putin’s tactics have led to jihadist violence at home and the export of thousands of terrorists to Syria, where they make up one of the largest cohorts of foreign extremists, alongside Tunisians and Saudis. Russian citizens have also been a major presence in Afghanistan, Iraq and around the world. A Chechen-led cell is believed to be responsible for killing 45 people in an attack on Istanbul’s airport in June. Numerous smaller attacks against Russians at home have been carried out and jihadist calls for violence against Russia have been escalating worldwide.
Mr. Trump, it seems, is oblivious to these trends.
Embracing Russia and its brutal tactics has the potential to stoke anti-American sentiment and encourage radicalization among Muslims around the world. The thought that we would run that risk, particularly when the United States’ Muslim community is one of the best-integrated, least radicalized in a predominantly non-Muslim country, is simply foolish.
Joining forces with Russia in Syria would also damage American relations with Sunni governments. These governments rightly consider Russia the patron of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, the ally of Iran and de facto partner of Hezbollah — all of whom are seen as responsible for the butchery of Syria’s Sunnis. They also understand, as Mr. Trump does not, that Russia’s military engagement in Syria has been aimed at helping the Assad government survive, not targeting the Islamic State.
For now, Sunni governments from Cairo to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, are exuberant about Mr. Trump’s victory. They expect that they will no longer face American criticism for committing human rights abuses. Those high spirits will quickly fade if the United States is seen to be abetting the Damascus-Tehran-Moscow axis. This, in turn, will impede the work of America’s fight against terrorism. The United States relies on Sunni countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for much of the most valuable intelligence on jihadists. By contrast, we receive little of value from Russia.
That points to the final reason such a partnership with Moscow is a terrible idea. The United States has labored to improve its counterterrorism cooperation with Russia since the attacks of Sept. 11. As coordinator for counterterrorism at the State Department, I, like my counterparts in other agencies, sought to engage the Russians on many occasions. Though we pointed to the counterterrorism work as a modestly successful part of an otherwise volatile relationship, in truth there was little to boast about.
In areas where we should have been able to cooperate, like transportation security, safeguarding special events like the Olympics and countering terrorist propaganda, Russia’s sclerotic bureaucracy and general lack of interest (especially with issues like deradicalization) made progress impossible. In more sensitive areas, like intelligence cooperation, some information routinely changes hands. But there is profound mistrust on both sides.
Russian and American intelligence agencies see one another not so much as potential allies but as persistent threats. In the wake of Russia’s meddling in the presidential election, it is utterly — and rightly — inconceivable that the American intelligence community would change its position. Mr. Trump might ponder that.
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Mike Pompeo Is Confirmed to Lead C.I.A., as Rex Tillerson Advances

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Several hours later, by a party-line vote of 11-10, Mr. Tillerson won the committee’s recommendation. As Mr. Rubio explained his vote to reporters after the hearing, a heckler sidled up beside him with a teasing prop: a model of a spine.
Mr. Tillerson must still clear a full Senate vote in order to join the administration. Mr. Trump’s aides and Senate allies had hoped to win approval on several nominees on Inauguration Day, but only two national security posts — the defense secretary, James N. Mattis, and the homeland security secretary, John F. Kelly — were filled.
On Monday, Mr. Pompeo joined them, with the Senate convening to approve his selection, 66 to 32, after a debate that stretched into the evening.
In their bid to confirm cabinet picks quickly, Republicans have been hamstrung at times by lax preparation from Mr. Trump’s team and the sprawling financial holdings of many of his nominees, which have produced reams of ethics paperwork.
Still, Democrats are powerless to stop any nominees on their own. They have sought to use the confirmation process as a showcase for what they call the extreme positions of the prospective Trump cabinet and the ethical lapses that have dogged some of his selections.
“I know why our Republican colleagues want to rush these nominees through,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, who has taken to calling Mr. Trump’s team a “swamp cabinet.”
“We’re not stalling nominations,” he added. “This isn’t sport. This is serious stuff.”
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, urged Democrats to stand down. “Let’s join hands and move forward,” he said.
Earlier, a group of Democratic senators formally requested a second hearing for Betsy DeVos, the nominee for education secretary, after an initial review of her ethics papers. They cited potential conflicts of interest and efforts by Republicans to limit questions at her hearing last week.
Ms. DeVos struggled through the hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, appearing uncertain on some basics of federal education policy.
In response to the Democrats’ letter, the office of Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee and the committee’s chairman, said there would be no second hearing, adding that Ms. DeVos had already spent more time and answered more questions than former President Barack Obama’s nominees for education secretary had.
Ms. DeVos is scheduled for a committee vote next week. Several other nominees are expected to be considered by other Senate committees this week, clearing the path for their confirmations. They include Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Mr. Trump’s choice for attorney general; Ben Carson, his pick to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development; Wilbur L. Ross, the nominee for commerce secretary; and Elaine Chao, the nominee for transportation secretary.
Hearings are scheduled on Tuesday for Representative Tom Price of Georgia, Mr. Trump’s nominee for secretary of health and human services; Representative Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, his choice for White House budget director; and Linda McMahon, Mr. Trump’s pick to lead the Small Business Administration.
On Monday, the chamber’s focus was on Mr. Pompeo. Though Republicans had hoped to hold the vote just after the inauguration, some Democrats objected to what they viewed as an effort to curb debate on intelligence issues.
“We ought to have a debate in broad daylight, not when senators are trying to figure out if their tux is going to fit,” Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon said at the time.
Mr. Wyden continued his push on Monday, suggesting Mr. Pompeo’s record conveyed “enthusiasm for sweeping new surveillance programs targeting Americans,” among other concerns.
But Mr. Pompeo did earn the support of some Democrats, limiting drama on the floor.
The most highly anticipated vote of the day had been Mr. Rubio’s, on another Trump selection. With his explosive questioning of Mr. Tillerson at the hearing two weeks ago, the former 2016 presidential hopeful had once again seized an outsize spotlight.
But Mr. Rubio also seemed to feed critics’ perception of him as squishy on matters of conviction, reinforcing his history of public vacillating and backtracking.
He worked on immigration reform in 2013, before distancing himself from the legislation during last year’s Republican primaries. He sold “#NeverTrump” bumper stickers on his campaign website, before announcing his support for Mr. Trump once he dropped out. He said he would not run for re-election to the Senate, weeks before revealing a change of heart.
“The only thing you can consistently count on when it comes to Marco Rubio is his capacity to cave,” said Ben Domenech, publisher of The Federalist, a conservative online publication.
In his statement on Facebook, Mr. Rubio concluded with a warning: “Upcoming appointments to critical posts in the Department of State are not entitled to, and will not receive from me, the same level of deference I have given this nomination.”
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Mattis speaks with NATO chief, highlighting importance of alliance

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U.S. Senate confirms Pompeo to be Trump's CIA director

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Trump pulls U.S. out of Pacific trade deal, loosening Asia ties

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Davis-Monthan Air Force Base - Google Search

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Story image for Davis-Monthan Air Force Base from ABC15 Arizona

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base on lockdown due to report of gunshot ...

ABC15 Arizona-47 minutes ago
TUCSON, AZ - Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is on lockdown Monday morning due to unconfirmed reports ... The base is currently in lockdown.
Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona locked down
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Davis-Monthan on lockdown after gunshots reported
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Davis-Monthan AFB placed on lockdown
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"Gunfire sounds" prompts lockdown at Tucson's Davis-Monthan
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Air Force base in Arizona on lockdown over possible 'gunshot sounds' | Reuters

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A U.S. Air Force base near Tucson, Arizona has been placed on lockdown following unconfirmed reports of "gunshot sounds" heard there, a base spokeswoman said.

No further details of the incident at Davis-Montham Air Force Base were immediately available, the spokeswoman said.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Halie Loren - Sway / Quien sera - YouTube

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Published on Oct 28, 2014
Photography by Maurizio Raffa
When marimba rhythms start to play
Dance with me, make me sway
Like a lazy ocean hugs the shore
Hold me close, sway me more

Like a flower bending in the breeze
Bend with me, sway with ease
When we dance you have a way with me
Stay with me, sway with me

Other dancers may be on the floor
Dear, but my eyes will see only you
Only you have that magic technique
When we sway I go weak

I can hear the sounds of violins
Long before it begins
Make me thrill as only you know how
Sway me smooth, sway me now

Oh ...

Quien será el que me quiere a mi?
Quien será?, quien será?
Quien será el que me de su amor?
Quien será?, quien será?
Yo no se si lo podré encontrar
Yo no se, yo no se
Yo no se si volveré a querer
Yo no se, yo no se

Eh querido volver a vivir
La pasión y el calor de otro amor
Otro amor que me hiciera sentir
Que me hiciera feliz como ayer lo fui

Ay quien será el que me quiere a mi?
Quien será?, quien será?
Quien será el que me de su amor?
Quien será?, quien será?


Quien sera mi amor
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Iran cautious in its first comments about US President Trump

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Syria conflict: War of words as peace talks open in Astana

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The Syrian government's lead negotiator has denounced what he called his rebel counterpart's "provocative" comments at the start of peace talks in Astana.
Bashar Jaafari said Mohammed Alloush had acted in a way "removed from diplomacy" at the indirect negotiations convened by Russia, Iran and Turkey.
Mr Alloush described the Syrian government as a "terrorist entity".
He also said a political solution to the civil war was the rebels' preferred choice, but "not the only one".
The talks in Kazakhstan's capital are the first at which the opposition delegation is formed exclusively of representatives of armed groups.
UN-brokered negotiations in Geneva involving exiled opposition political figures broke down last April with little progress having been made.
More than 300,000 people have been killed and 11 million others displaced since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011.
The talks opened on Monday morning at a hotel in Astana with the rebel delegation sat on one side of a large round table, and government officials on the other side.
They were joined by representatives of Russia and Iran, which back Mr Assad, and Turkey, which supports the rebels, as well as UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura and the US ambassador to Kazakhstan.
The meeting was closed to the media after an address by Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov, who said it was time to "make the real breakthrough that Syrian people rightfully deserve".
Mr Jaafari, Syria's permanent representative to the UN, insisted he had delivered a "positive and optimistic" message.

The new equation, by BBC chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet, in Astana

"Everything has changed since Aleppo," says a Western diplomat who has been engaged on Syria for the past several years. "There's a new equation."
The opposition's stinging defeat in the city of Aleppo in December robbed them of their last major urban stronghold to challenge President Bashar al-Assad's rule.
And there was another game-changer. Behind the scenes, in the Turkish capital Ankara, a new Russian-Turkish alliance forged a deal to end the final fight for Syria's second city.
Now two unlikely allies, who have always backed different sides in this war, are hoping to redraw Syria's geo-political map.
But he said the "provocative tone and lack of seriousness in the opposition delegation chief's speech" had "irritated the attendees' diplomatic senses and experience".
A transcript of Mr Alloush's speech has not been released, but a video of part of it was posted online by a member of his delegation.
The political leader of Jaysh al-Islam described the government as a "terrorist" entity and called for groups fighting alongside it, including Lebanon's Hezbollah movement, to be placed on a global list of terrorist organisations.
Mr Alloush said the rebels wanted to stop "the horrific flow of blood" by reinforcing the truce brokered by Russia and Turkey at the end of last month, which both sides have accused each other of violating.
He warned: "A political solution in Syria is our choice but it is not the only one because we fight for our rights; our right to live; the right of freedom; the right to decide our fate and the people's right to decide who will represent them."

Low expectations among media, by BBC Monitoring

Syrian state-owned daily Al-Thawra says the gathering represents a chance for Damascus to vaunt its recent military gains, and a "last opportunity" for "terrorist groups" to negotiate peace.
London-based paper Al-Quds al-Arabi believes the talks are hampered by the fact that key players are not present.
In Saudi Arabia, which backs the rebels, pro-government daily Okaz dismisses the conference as an attempt by other "regional powers" to pursue their own interests.
Russia state TV Rossiya 1 says "the fate of Syria" is being decided in Astana, but Channel One TV described the aim as "finding common ground".
A spokesman for the rebel delegation, Yahya al-Aridi, earlier told reporters that they would also seek the lifting of government sieges of opposition-held areas and "goodwill gestures", including the release of political detainees and aid deliveries.
Mr Aridi added that it was hoped the meeting would "contribute" to the UN-brokered Geneva talks on a political settlement, which are scheduled to resume next month.
Government officials said they wanted to focus on "establishing lines of the cessation of hostilities" and separating the rebels represented in Astana from the jihadist groups excluded - so-called Islamic State and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.
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Halie Loren - Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps - YouTube

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Published on May 7, 2014
You won't admit you love me.
And so how am I ever to know?
You always tell me
Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

A million times I ask you,
And then I ask you over again.
But you only answer
Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

If you can't make your mind up,
We'll never get started.
And I don't wanna wind up
Being parted, broken-hearted.

So if you really love me, say yes.
But if you don't, dear, confess.
But please don't tell me
Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

Siempre que te pregunto,
Qué, cuándo, cómo y dónde,
Tú siempre me respondes,
Quizás, quizás, quizás.

Estás perdiendo el tiempo,
Pensando, pensando,
Por lo que más tú quieras,
Hasta cuando, hasta cuando.

Y así pasan los días,
Y yo desesperando,
Y tú, tú contestando,
Quizás, quizás, quizás
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Page 5

At Russia-led talks, Syrian rebels and government meet for the first time

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Iran’s strategic defeat in Syria before Astana talks – Iran Commentary

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By Heshmat Alavi
The war in Syria has reached a major turning point. The Iran-Russia honeymoon is over, and Moscow is warming relations with Ankara. Reports indicate the two coordinated airstrikes targeting Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) and other terrorist groups. Such a turn of events has even been described as Russia throwing Iran under the bus.
Turkish armed forces and the Free Syrian Army, under Russian air support, advanced in northern Syria to liberate key areas. This is strikingly similar to the measures adopted by Iran-backed Shiite militias with Russia’s support in taking control over Eastern Aleppo.
This new shift in Russian policy from supporting Tehran-Damascus to Turkey-FSA clearly indicates a strategic defeat for Iran. A sudden and unpredicted change of decorations, in line with heavy military operations, parallel to political agreements in writing. We are also on the verge of Astana talks set to place all parties involved at a round table, including representatives of the new Trump administration. This is much to the dissent of Iran.
“Iran, Russia and Turkey laid the foundations for the recent ceasefire in Syria… however, Russia and Turkey have taken the helm under a framework of bilateral negotiations in Ankara,” Iran’s state-run Alef website explained.
“Concerns remain over future Russian policy… Moscow has close relations with Ankara, and specific reservations about Riyadh. Inviting Saudi Arabia to the Syria talks… can shift the balance against Iran…,” Iran’s Arman daily added.
“Russia’s actions in Syria, cooperating with Turkey… neglecting Iran shows Moscow never takes Tehran seriously, and the hoax of strategic relations with Russia is only sought by Iran, while there is no such rejoice seen in Russia,” Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported citing Sharq daily.
It has now become quite obvious that Iran’s policymakers–read the mullahs–have made yet another strategic mistake, in line with their decisions to continue the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s even after Iraqi forces withdrew to internationally recognized borders; the occupation and hostage-taking fiasco of the U.S. Embassy back in November 1979; launching the completely unnecessary nuclear program while the country sits on an ocean of God-given oil and gas reserves; and meddling in possibly all neighboring and Middle East countries, most vividly seen today in Syria and Iraq.
The only difference now is the mullahs face very serious questions, such as why have they wasted billions in fueling a war machine killing hundreds of thousands of Syrians? Especially at a time when we witnessed heart breaking scenes of Iran’s homeless having no choice but to find refuge in pre-dug graves.
Here is a brief look at how Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has actually allocated the country’s wealth.
  • May 28th, 2013:  Iran opened two credit lines for Syria worth $4 billion and provided a $3 billion loan, according to Syrian Central Bank President Adib Miale. (com)
  • August 27th, 2013: Iran has up to this day allocated $17 billion for the Syrian war. (According to Liberation)
  • September 4th, 2014: Tehran opens a new $4 billion credit line for the Assad regime. (According to Le Figaro)
  • In December 2014 Reuters reported: “If it had not been for Iranian support we could not have survived the crisis,” a senior Syrian trade official said from Damascus, requesting anonymity… In July last year, Iran granted Syria a $3.6 billion credit facility to buy oil products, according to officials and bankers at the time. Another $1 billion went for non-oil products.
  • May 7th, 2015: Iran’s state-run Sharq daily estimated Iran, China and Russia provided around $500 million to Syria each month.
  • April 27th, 2015: “Diplomatic sources in Beirut estimate that Iran spends between $1 billion and $2 billion a month in Syria in cash handouts and military support. Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations envoy to Syria, recently told a private gathering in Washington that Iran has been channeling as much as $35 billion a year into Syria, according to one of the participants at the meeting.” (Christian Science Monitor)
  • July 5th, 2015: Syrian President Bashar Assad approves a new bill consisting of a $1 billion credit from his regional ally Iran. (According to the state-run Syrian news agency)
  • August 2016: Iran has spent $100 billion in Syria, according to a report provided by Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
These numbers shed light only on a small portion of the billions Khamenei and his regime have stolen from the Iranian people to provide for their war machine, as so unfortunately witnessed in Aleppo most recently. Without a doubt the actual amount is far higher.
The question is where have the mullahs reached, strategically speaking, after wasting tens of billions in the Syria inferno, allowing a dictator to kill nearly half a million of his own people and leave more than 11 million stranded inside the country and abroad?
The Iranian opposition has time and again warned about the dangers of such a policy pursued by Tehran in Syria, and across the Middle East, and provided the sole solution to this deadly dilemma.
“The regime in Tehran is the source of crisis in the region and killings in Syria; it has played the greatest role in the expansion and continuation of ISIS. Peace and tranquility in the region can only be achieved by evicting this regime from the region,” said Maryam Rajavi, President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an umbrella group of organizations including the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).
From day one, exporting crises, terrorism and warmongering has been one of the main pillars maintaining the mullahs’ regime intact, all meant to quell domestic crises. This is exactly why senior Iranian officials continuously explain the necessity of fighting there (Syria) to not fight here (inside Iran).
Never mentioned are the Iranian people and their interests. The mullahs only seek to preserve their establishment, at all costs. And yet with the sudden death of former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the regime in its entirety is now utterly weakened as he played the highly important role of a balancing mast.
This is a regime bracing for further strategic defeats.

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Fateh al-Sham Prepares Militarily in Anticipation for Infighting Following Astana Talks

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Militants of the Syrian rebel group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham cheer after a Russian helicopter was shot down in the north of Syria's rebel-held Idlib province. Reuters
Beirut – Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as the al-Nusra Front, anticipated the outcomes of Astana talks that will be held on Monday by preparing militarily on large scale.
The group opened its spare warehouses and launched a workshop for booby-trapping vehicles, repairing armors and four-wheeled military vehicles in order to fight Syrian moderate opposition factions that accepted to participate in the conference.
Fateh al-Sham commenced implementing its schemes, aiming at deporting factions that constitute danger to it after Astana talks, by attacking brigades from Ahrar al-Sham in Idlib and sending military queue to the countryside to guarantee its forces stay close to military centers of “Fastaqim Kama Umirt Union” faction, which will participate in the talks.
In this matter, an opposing military source in the Free Syrian Army said that a military official from Fateh al-Sham confirmed that the extremist group, which is included in the international terrorism lists, fear the outcomes of Astana talks could seek mobilizing Syrian opposition forces to fight Fateh al-Sham.
The source told Asharq Al-Awsat that the extremist official tried to camouflage the reasons by saying that these are “routine security procedures taken to protect the headquarters from the continued strikes by the international coalition.”
According to the same opposing official, “the case is different from what it seems to be like since Fateh al-Sham’s preparations in the north is taken from two perspectives.”
The first, he said, is defensive to protect headquarters and centers while the second is offensive to anticipate and possible attacks based on dismantling the organizations before attacking Fateh al-Sham.
He said that this is what Fateh al-Sham has done by attacking the headquarters of its supposed allies like Ahrar al-Sham on Thursday.
Usually, Fateh al-Sham touts the same tactic to attack suspected opponents proactively, and it is repeating what it has started in 2015 when it attacked “Syria Revolutionaries Front» movement and U.S.-backed “Hazzm” movement.


Ahrar al-Sham to Sit out Astana Talks, 25 to Represent Syrian Opposition

Ahrar al-Sham to Sit out Astana Talks, 25 to Represent Syrian Opposition

Beirut- Syrian Opposition factions continue to express growing fears of what would become of the Kazakhstan-held Syria peace talks, scheduled for Jan 23. Ahrar al-Sham, an opposition group in Syria, officially announced that it would not be partaking in the negotiations at the Kazakh capital, Astana—yet reaffirmed its support to…
January 19, 2017
In "Middle East"
Syrian Rebels to Attend Astana Talks

Syrian Rebels to Attend Astana Talks

Syrian rebel groups said Monday they will attend peace talks next week, in a boost to efforts by rivals Turkey and Russia to put an end to the nearly six-year-old conflict as rebel negotiator Mohammed Alloush confirmed he would head the delegation to the meeting. The talks, beginning on January…
January 16, 2017
In "Middle East"
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Syrian US-backed forces out of Astana talks - YouTube

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Published on Jan 22, 2017
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Syria: Kurds protest their exclusion from Astana talks - YouTube

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Published on Jan 16, 2017
Hundreds of Syrian Kurds took to the streets of Al-Qamishli, Monday, prompted by their exclusion from the forthcoming Astana talks on the political future of Syria, as stated by Syrian Kurd representative in France Khaled Issa.

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