Friday, January 27, 2017

Voice of America: Researchers Unlocking the Potential of Autumn Leaves

Voice of America: Researchers Unlocking the Potential of Autumn Leaves

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Anyone who gardens knows the leaves people rake off their lawns can be great fertilizer. Dead leaves have nutrients that feed earthworms and can help your garden stay moist as they decompose. With all that going for them, VOA's Kevin Enochs reports, scientists are looking at other uses for these autumn leftovers.

 Voice of America

Theresa May and Donald Trump to hold face-to-face talks - BBC News

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Hindustan Times

Theresa May and Donald Trump to hold face-to-face talks
BBC News
Prime Minister Theresa May is to hold face-to-face talks with US President Donald Trump in the Oval Office later. The pair will spend about an hour together in the first visit by a foreign leader to the White House since Mr Trump became president. Mrs ...
Can British PM Theresa May Change Donald Trumpand Secure a U.S. Trade Deal?Daily Beast
British Alignment With Trump Threatens European OrderNew York Times
'Opposites attract,' UK PM calls on Trump for deeper special relationshipBusiness Insider
TIME -Fox News -USA TODAY -Washington Times
all 417 news articles »

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty: U.S. Defense Chief Assures French, German Counterparts Of NATO Commitment

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U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis assured his German and French counterparts that the United States' has an "enduring commitment" to NATO in phone calls on January 26, the Pentagon said.

 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

U.S. Defense Chief Assures French, German Counterparts Of NATO Commitment

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U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis assured his German and French counterparts that the United States' has an "enduring commitment" to NATO in phone calls on January 26, the Pentagon said.

russia and the west - Google News: Russia to Develop Robotic Weapons as Proposed by Putin - News18

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Russia to Develop Robotic Weapons as Proposed by Putin
In the midst of what seems to be a return to the Cold War between Russia and the West, at least until US President Donald Trump came to power, Russia and NATO have strengthened their military presence on the borders between this country and Eastern ...

and more »

 russia and the west - Google News

NBC: Трамп рассчитывает поговорить с Путиным по телефону в выходные - РИА Новости

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РИА Новости

NBC: Трамп рассчитывает поговорить с Путиным по телефону в выходные
РИА Новости
ВАШИНГТОН, 27 янв — РИА Новости, Алексей Богдановский. Президент США Дональд Трамп рассчитывает поговорить с российским коллегой Владимиром Путиным по телефону в ближайшие выходные, сообщила в Twitter корреспондент NBC Хелли Джексон. News: President Trump ...
Правительство сократит расходы на научные исследования на 19 млрд руб.РБК
Белой дом пока не подтвердил информацию о предстоящем разговоре Трампа и ПутинаТАСС
Трамп заявил, что рассчитывает вскоре побеседовать с Путиным. СМИ назвали дату разговора
Взгляд -Новая газета -ИА REGNUM -ИД Алтапресс
Все похожие статьи: 194 »
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Page 2

Турция охладела к Евросоюзу, НАТО и США - Вести.Ru

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Турция охладела к Евросоюзу, НАТО и США
Согласно данным социологов, Турция больше не хочет вступать в Евросоюз. Стамбульский университет Кадир Хас провел исследование, которое показало, что за последний год уровень поддержки евроинтеграции упал почти на 20 процентов. Меньше стало и людей, которые хотят в ...

Global Opinions: If May embraces Trump, her ‘global Britain’ is doomed 

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She said she hopes to ‘lead, together, again.’ In which direction?

 Global Opinions
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FBI director James Comey will be interviewed at SXSW - The Verge

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WTAE Pittsburgh

FBI director James Comey will be interviewed at SXSW
The Verge
FBI Director James Comey will be interviewed at the SXSW conference in Austin this year on March 13th. This would be the public's first opportunity to really hear from Comey post-inauguration. The Washington, DC-based Newseum is hosting the talk, with ...
FBI director Comey to address South By Southwest festivalWTAE Pittsburgh
FBI Director James Comey to speak at
FBI Director James Comey to Speak at SXSW ConferencePaste Magazine (press release) (registration) (blog)
all 49 news articles »

Theresa May Pledges To Challenge Trump On Importance Of NATO - NPR

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Theresa May Pledges To Challenge Trump On Importance Of NATO
The British prime minister is expected to discuss an increase in trade between the two countries when she meets with Trump on Friday. But there might be some friction about the future ofNATO. Facebook; Twitter. Google+. Email ...

Russian Security Expert Maintains Putin Was Behind DNC Hack - NPR

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Russian Security Expert Maintains Putin Was Behind DNC Hack
Despite official Kremlin denials and worthless U.S. intelligence reports, Russia's leading Internet security expert says the fingerprints of Putin's cyber-warriors are all over the Democratic National Committee hack. Facebook; Twitter. Google+. Email ...

New CIA director inherits an agency that is quickly developing cyber capabilities - CyberScoop

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New CIA director inherits an agency that is quickly developing cyber capabilities
The CIA's Directorate of Digital Innovation is now delivering the kinds of cyber-espionage tools and intelligence-gathering capabilities that the agency was seeking when then-Director John Brennan created it two years ago, says a senior official with ...

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Page 3

Theresa May speech to Republicans: 'Beware of Vladimir Putin' - The Independent

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The Independent

Theresa May speech to Republicans: 'Beware of Vladimir Putin'
The Independent
British Prime Minister Theresa May used a major speech in Philadelphia to warn Donald Trump and his Republican party to “beware” of Vladimir Putin. Invoking the spirit of the Cold War, she called on the US and the UK to engage with the Kremlin “from a ...
Theresa May congratulates GOP and says 'beware' of PutinDaily Mail

all 697 news articles »

Defense One - All Content: 'Even a Shining City on a Hill Needs Walls': Senator Tom Cotton 

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A Republican hawk acclimates to the Trump presidency—and threatens to reconsider the One China policy.

 Defense One - All Content

Eurasia Review Newsletter: US Union Membership Rate Down To 10.7 Percent In 2016 – Analysis 

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By Cherrie Bucknor The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released Thursday data on union membership for 2016.[1] Using that report, and additional analysis of the raw data, this paper presents trends in union membership from...

 Eurasia Review Newsletter

Prime Minister May aligns the UK with GOP on Israel and Iran

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May offered tough language on Iran and the nuclear deal it reached with world powers in 2015.

РБК - Все материалы: Россия предложила особый вариант автономии для сирийских курдов

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В переданном оппозиции проекте конституции Сирии предусмотрено предоставление курдам культурной автономии с расширенными полномочиями, следует из текста документа, переданного РБК

 РБК - Все материалы

us national security - Google News: Trump admin pursues rethinking of national security policy - U.S. News & World Report

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U.S. News & World Report

Trump admin pursues rethinking of national security policy
U.S. News & World Report
Though the draft order, which the White House said was not official, takes a more expansive view of national security power, it also in some instances relies on legal authorities that remained in place during the Obama administration but went unused.

 us national security - Google News
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Page 4

AP source: Border Patrol chief says he's been forced out

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The man charged with protecting America's borders was ousted Thursday, one day after President Donald Trump announced ambitious plans to build a massive wall at the Mexican border and bolster the ranks of the Border Patrol....

Trump said to consider 20% tax on Mexican imports to fund wall

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Spokesman Sean Spicer clarifies the tax just an option, after Mexico refuses to pay, cancels meeting with president

Vladimir Putin joins in sing-a-long with students at Moscow State University - New Zealand Herald

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Vladimir Putin joins in sing-a-long with students at Moscow State University
New Zealand Herald
Russian President Vladimir Putin showed his rarely seen musical side in a sing-a-long with university students. He visited Moscow State University yesterday and sang a brief excerpt from a Soviet-era space exploration song called 14 minutes to the launch.

Премьер Великобритании: в отношениях с РФ Трампу следует придерживаться правила "доверяй, но проверяй"

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Президенту США Дональду Трампу следует действовать в отношениях с Россией по принципу бывшего главы Штатов Рональда Рейгана, который в рамках этого вопроса придерживался правила "доверяй, но проверяй".

ODNI Newsroom Feed: IARPA Announces the "Nail to Nail Fingerprint Challenge" To Develop Next Generation Fingerprints

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WASHINGTON – The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, today launches the “Nail to Nail Fingerprint Challenge.” The challenge aims to improve live and forensic biometric fingerprint recognition by improving biometric fingerprint collection and recognition systems, eliminating plain fingerprint captures.

 ODNI Newsroom Feed

Syria rebels await action from Trump on safe zones, Damascus silent

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Page 5

Exclusive: Expecting Trump action, U.S. suspends refugee resettlement interviews

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Crisis deepens as Trump floats 20 percent tax on Mexico goods to pay for wall

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syrian rebels - Google Search

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Story image for syrian rebels from Reuters

Facing jihadist attack, Syrian rebels join bigger faction

Reuters-10 hours ago
FILE PHOTO - A rebel fighter from the Ahrar al-Sham Islamic Movement reacts as they fire grad rockets from Idlib countryside, towards forces ...
Battles escalate between Syria rebels, al-Qaida-affiliate
<a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>-54 minutes ago

Syrian rebels unite in battle against jihadi militants

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Six Syrian rebel factions have merged with Ahrar al-Sham, a powerful Islamist group, after facing attacks from jihadi militants that have intensified as regional powers push for an end to Syria’s near six-year civil war.
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You select the topic, we deliver the news.
Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, which is linked to al-Qaeda, is excluded from a Russian and Turkish-backed ceasefire and has launched a series of offensives against rebels who signed up to the truce. The merger on Thursday escalates a showdown between jihadi forces and other rebel groups that had once accommodated JFS because of their shared goal of toppling President Bashar al-Assad.
The clashes, which are spreading across Syria’s northwestern Idlib and Aleppo provinces, could consolidate non-jihadi rebels into a single faction, albeit controlled by Ahrar al-Sham.
Formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra, which was al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, JFS is one of the best-armed and most effective forces seeking to topple Mr Assad, and it previously fought alongside other armed opposition groups. But since many factions agreed last month to a ceasefire with the government after rebels were forced out of Aleppo, their last major urban stronghold, the jihadi group has targeted other opposition groups.
Ahrar al-Sham said in a statement that six of the larger rebel groups had now agreed to join forces with it in response to the attacks from JFS. The Islamist group said that any assault on members of the movement would be a “declaration of war”.
Ahrar al-Sham did not attend this week’s talks between the rebels and the government in Kazakhstan, but has suggested that it would support the peace process and help the rebels secure their goals.
The indirect negotiations ended on Tuesday with Russia and Iran, the main backers of Mr Assad, and Turkey, which supports the rebels, pledging to monitor the shaky ceasefire. In a statement, the three powers, which oversaw the talks, vowed to fight Isis and al-Qaeda, which would also mean JFS.
Read more
Envoys out of the loop in Irish pub as new power brokers meet
The group changed its name to JFS after it disavowed its ties to al-Qaeda, but both the US and Russia dismiss the change as cosmetic. Scores of its militants have been killed in recent air strikes by a US-led international coalition fighting Isis and other jihadis.
JFS has accused the rebels that attended the Astana talks of conspiring against it.
“The fighting between the factions is different from their previous clashes, before it was about influence and bounty but today it is purely political JFS accuses the others of conspiring against them and are waging a preliminary war,” said Mohammad Khawaja, an analyst.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, reported that fierce clashes continued between rebel factions and JSF.
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Facing jihadist attack, Syrian rebels join bigger faction

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The Impossible Politics of Peace in Syria

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Given Russia’s determination to exit the Syrian conflict and Turkey's increasingly accommodative stance toward Damascus, some minor agreements could be reached, but the broader conflict will continue through 2017. (KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)


  • Because of the complexity of the Syrian conflict, there is little chance that peace talks in Kazakhstan will succeed.
  • Rebel groups will divide even more this year, making it difficult for them to find a unified stance on the battlefield and at the negotiating table.
  • The Syrian government is determined to keep pursuing a military solution to the conflict.
  • Meanwhile, the Islamic State, despite its weaknesses, will remain a potent threat, particularly in central and eastern Syria.


Syrian peace talks resumed Jan. 23 in Astana, Kazakhstan, though it appears that the Russian and Turkish negotiators are more eager for a settlement than the Syrian ones — almost guaranteeing that the talks will not succeed. The rebellion is increasingly divided, and many important rebel factions are not represented at all in Astana. Meanwhile, the emboldened Syrian government is fixated on ending the conflict militarily, a position that Iran supports. And to further complicate matters, the Islamic State is still a considerable force to contend with on the ground, though it does not directly factor into the peace talks. 

The Rebels

2016 was a bad year for the rebel cause in Syria. Not only did the critical city of Aleppo fall, but the rebels also lost a number of important areas around the capital city of Damascus, including Daraya. Now they are facing declining foreign support at a crucial time, with infighting reaching critical levels.
Adding insult to injury, the anticipated upsurge in U.S. support, known as Plan B, did not materialize. Furthermore, the new U.S. administration is calling for greater cooperation with Russia on Syria. This means that the existing CIA support program could be reduced or ended altogether. Even Turkey, a staunch supporter of the rebel cause, has shifted its goals with Operation Euphrates Shield. Though Ankara continues to supply the rebels with weapons and equipment, it has pressured many groups away from fighting Syrian loyalists and toward Turkey's main goal of containing Kurdish expansionism by seizing Islamic State positions in northern Aleppo.
Instead of unifying the rebels behind a common cause, the defeat in Aleppo appears to have heightened infighting. Three variables are driving the trend: personality differences, disputes over foreign sponsorship and accelerated U.S. airstrikes against Jabhat Fateh al-Sham. The first variable has worsened as loyalist forces drive rebel groups into Idlib province. As the rebel stronghold becomes overcrowded, increasingly volatile disagreements are breaking out over matters of governance and control. As much as the rebels are being concentrated, differences over the question of foreign sponsorship are pulling them apart. Some groups, particularly those with the closest ties to Turkey, have come under increasing criticism from other, more extreme groups such as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham over their commitments to Operation Euphrates Shield. For instance, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and other like-minded groups claim that rebel contributions to Turkey's operations in northern Aleppo province undermined the battle for Aleppo city. Finally, the accelerated pace of U.S. strikes against Jabhat Fateh al-Sham has killed hundreds of fighters over the past few months, angering the organization and its allies. The strikes have lowered the group's tolerance toward any rebel groups with U.S. ties, and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham has launched a number of raids and arrests against U.S.-backed groups.
The most important fissure on the rebel landscape is between Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham, two of the most powerful rebel groups in Syria. Last week, the conflict between the two turned into an outright battle, leading members of each group to start defecting to the other. These divisions are the greatest impediment to success in Astana. Fewer rebel groups have agreed to attend these talks than attended the last, and those that have elected to participate are less able to voice a unified position.

The Loyalists

Building on their 2016 success, loyalist forces are eager to continue pursuing their military campaign to wrest territory back from the rebels and the Islamic State. This course of action, however, is not completely straightforward. For instance, loyalist success on the battlefield is predicated on continued foreign support, particularly from Iran and Russia. Though Iran remains an eager ally of the Syrian government, along with Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, Russia's continued support is less certain. Unlike Tehran, Moscow is far less enthusiastic about pursuing a long-term and costly military effort in hopes of retaking all of Syria and is increasingly looking for a negotiated end to the conflict beneficial to its interests.
Unwilling to break with Russia, the Syrian government has agreed to participate in the Astana talks. It is clear, however, that Damascus has no intention of giving up its ambitious military goals in Syria. It has already been portraying the talks as a means by which to disarm the rebels. In the meantime, it has continued to launch offensives at rebel areas that it claims are excluded from the cease-fire because of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham's presence there.
In fact, in the short term, the cease-fire and the Astana negotiations could benefit Damascus. Not only would the talks further encourage rebel distrust and infighting, but they could also provide an opportunity for the loyalists to turn their attention toward the growing threat from the Islamic State in the east, where the extremist group has increasingly focused its effort in Homs and Deir el-Zour provinces. In the long term, however, the Syrian government has no intention of making significant concessions to the rebels and intends to build on its current battlefield advantage as long as its foreign support, particularly Iranian, remains strong.

The Islamic State

Going into 2017, the Islamic State finds itself under tremendous pressure in both Syria and Iraq. Although the group inflicted heavy casualties on Iraqi forces engaged in the battle to retake Mosul, Baghdad has nevertheless made steady progress, finally securing the east bank of the city. Pockets of Islamic State resistance in Mosul will continue, but the city is almost certain to be captured by the Iraqi government this year.
In northern Syria, the Islamic State faces offensives on either side of the Euphrates River. Turkish-backed rebel forces have driven Islamic State fighters from most of northern Aleppo province over the past few months and are now attempting to capture the city of al-Bab, despite a fierce Islamic State defense. On the east bank of the river, the Syrian Democratic Forces are steadily advancing on Raqqa and have already reached the Tabqa Dam west of the city. Both in al-Bab and around Raqqa, Islamic State resistance is greatly undermined by persistent coalition and Turkish airstrikes that make copious use of deadly precision-guided munitions.
Despite the multiple offensives against it, the Islamic State is unwilling to maintain a purely defensive stance. Defensive battles cannot provide the extremist group with the stunning propaganda victories it relies on to bolster its image, enhance recruitment, and capture valuable heavy weaponry and equipment (of which it has no supply source except battlefield seizures). To that end, the Islamic State has and will continue to shift the focus of its offensive operations toward Syrian loyalist regions, one of the last areas where it can secure operational success.
The Islamic State has a significantly better chance of prevailing against the poorly led and overstretched loyalist forces and can also capture significant quantities of weaponry from the well-equipped Syrian army. Attacking loyalist positions in central and eastern Syria also makes geographical sense, since it progresses the group's goal of clearing a space in eastern Syria, a region that would be difficult for the Turkish-backed rebels or the Syrian Democratic Forces to penetrate.
The Islamic State launched a significant offensive Jan. 14 aimed at seizing remaining Syrian loyalist positions in and around the city of Deir el-Zour in eastern Syria. The offensive has already made significant progress. By seizing a key supply road and dividing loyalist positions, the Islamic State was able to isolate the region's principal air base from the rest of the Syrian army pocket. The Islamic State's advances make any aerial resupply effort — already precarious and limited — far more difficult. By successfully seizing a number of elevated positions overlooking the remaining loyalist positions, they now literally hold the high ground. The collapse of the loyalist pocket would be a significant blow to the Syrian government, dealing a particularly bad hit to the "Army in all corners" strategy and undermining Syrian President Bashar al Assad's ambition of taking back all of Syria.
A status check of the Syrian conflict highlights the significant impediments to any negotiated solution that might be mooted at Astana. The rebels are as fractious as ever, the loyalists are keen on pursuing their military campaign, and the Islamic State is committed to enhancing its offensive operations in central and eastern Syria. Given Russia's determination to exit the conflict and Turkey's increasingly accommodative stance toward al Assad, some minor agreements are within reach, but the Syrian conflict will not end in 2017.
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Trump’s “Syria “Minus Iran” Overture to Putin and Assad May Restore Washington-Damascus Relations

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Not for at least three quarters of a century have the American people elected a president who so openly disparages, discards and seemingly abhors the principles, standards, policies, ideas, and institutions at the center of post-WW II US foreign policy. Trump seems to dismiss human rights even as a foreign policy principle, much less a standard, while focusing rather on deal-making, diplomatic and economic, and championing the fight against Islamic terrorism.
No one knows how the foreign policy of the Trump administration will take shape. Or how his priorities may twist and turn as he encounters the assured torrent of events and mayhem from the looming plethora of crises that will wreak havoc. What is known is that the Mideast expects big changes under Trump. They may well happen.
President Trump is reported, by two US Senate Foreign Relations staffers among others, to be considering a broad new U.S. partnership with Russia, starting with Syria. Trump allies have also hinted at possible White House acceptance of Syrian President Bashar Assad, which would amount to a dramatic reversal from years of the Obama administration calls for Assad’s ouster.
Trump’s cozying up to Putin is being reciprocated via an emerging Russian “Trumpomania” and love fest directed toward the American public, since the elections, which in Russia were greeted by the issuance of commemorative coins and Trump Matryoshka dolls. An all-night party in Moscow was endorsed by the Kremlin to celebrate Trump taking over the White House. The festivities were attended by thousands and even televised live on Tsargrad TV, a pro-Putin Russian Orthodox TV channel. And some Moscow shops have offered 10% discounts to “American guests.” Why such new-found good will?
Trump has not only labeled NATO obsolete, which coming from the president of the country that created NATO doubtless were music to Putin’s ears. He has also signaled that he will lift US sanctions imposed following Russia’s annexation of Crimea if Russia cooperates on a nuclear disarmament deal. Putin will presumably keep his cards to his chest while he studies this offer, but following more than a decade of frustration, Putin appears to be seeking the role of senior partner with Trump.
With or without the leverage of “golden shower’ videos, Putin is in a strong position to defend Trump’s weak reputation and widely questioned legitimacy while serving subtly as Trump’s mediator, advocate and protector, thus shoring up Trump’s presidency globally—if not among 1..5 million-plus US citizens who, the day after his inauguration, took to the streets across America in protest Trump’s announced agenda and even his election.
As Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has frequently reminded John Kerry (who reportedly agreed with him) and before him Hillary Clinton (who reportedly did not), Moscow has some legitimate grievances of its own. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union a quarter-century ago, US presidents and Congress have broken several agreements with Russia. Clinton enlarged NATO by adding former Soviet republics, which violated a U.S. commitment not to do so. The Bush administration pledged that if the Soviets pulled nearly 400,000 military forces out of East Germany, the United States would not “leapfrog” over East Germany to assert itself in Eastern Europe. But it did so by expanding NATO to include the three former soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Bush’s abrogation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM), which served as the cornerstone of strategic deterrence and the arms control relationship between Russia and the United States, was another example of the United States taking advantage of Russia’s geostrategic weakness, thus angering Moscow and many Russian citizens to this day.
Trump has also been signaling support to Russia’s ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, by claiming in the media that, while Assad may not be America’s first choice to lead Syria, Syria’s leadership is for the Syrian people to decide and that the rebels fighting to topple Assad “could be worse” than Assad. Trump regularly insists that the U.S. has no idea who its allies in Syria are, implying that Assad might turn out to be one. For his part, Bashar Assad recently suggested that the U.S. and Syria could be “natural allies.”
Admittedly such a shift would have consequences, especially among America’s Sunni allies in the Gulf and elsewhere in the region if they view the Trump administration’s as strengthening the hand of Assad’s second main partner, Shiite Iran. Among many other sources of tension, it was Iran who blocked them from a role in the peace talks organized by Turkey and Russia that are currently getting underway in Ashtana, Kazakhstan.
Assad, who highly praises Putin’s help since Russia’s major 2015 involvement in the war, reiterated this week his hope that Trump will become a partner in this alliance going forward. As the Syrian president said on Trump’s inauguration day: “We hope that they [the Trump administration] are genuinely forging a real and realistic alliance to fight the terrorists in the region, and that of course will include Syria first of all.” Turkey appears on board with officials now saying there can be no settlement without President Assad. If Assad now seriously takes on the Islamic State in Northwestern Syria one could imagine that Trump might accept a tacit if informal partnership.
Trump’s offer to Moscow and Damascus, being pushed by the Israel lobby in Washington, has a price tag. The Trump team wants Iran out of the six countries it is currently accused of occupying and insists on dismantling the Shia militia crescent that Iran has methodically put in place over the past several years, which funnels weapons and explosive devices as well as cash and militia from Iraq. These include Yemen’s party Ansar Allah (made up of Houthis loyal to Iran); the Afghanistan-based Fatemyoun Division of the IRGC-Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps; Pakistan’s Shi’ite Zaynabyoun Brigade; Lebanon’s Hezbollah; and others. The Shia militia “highway” runs from Iran and Iraq into and across Syria, north of Aleppo, westward to the Mediterranean and turns south into Lebanon and to the Naquora-Maron el Ras border with Palestine/Israel.
The Syrian opposition delegation to the Astana talks, which includes 12 groups, claims that Moscow is serious about moving to a neutral posture during the talks but that Putin is being pressured by Iran. Whatever the results of the peace talks, they are already revealing growing tensions between Tehran and Moscow over the future of Syria. One opposition claimed deep split between Tehran and Moscow is over Putin’s insistence that Hezbollah should be forced to leave Syria. But Hezbollah withdrawing from Syria a redline for Tehran and it’s unlikely they would accept that Hezbollah leave Syria or any of the countries its fighters have been sent to by Tehran.
The US Congress and the six GCC countries also want the end to Iran’s reported ethnic cleansing and population transfers in Syria and implementation of the Four Towns Agreement, which called for a humanitarian lifting of the siege around four towns and which they claim Iran’s militia have not honored as its continues to besiege Madaya and sixteen other towns. The US Congress claims that all these Iranian actions are designed to increase Shia domination of strategic Sunni areas of Syria, including their oil reserves, and eviscerate Syria’s secular governmental system and its historical tolerance for all religions and ethnicities.
Trump is about to be heavily lobbied by Israel and Congress to accept this view and act accordingly. Israeli officials claim that Obama and his team adopted a policy of slowly bleeding resources from Iran and Hezbollah in Syria, while arming Syrian rebels just enough to prevent their defeat yet precluding their victory unless those factions who would assume power were properly vetted. A fight of attrition in Syria, according to this rationale, would not only weaken the Syrian army so that it is no longer a threat to Israel, either directly or indirectly, but also increase what they believe is growing regional opposition to Iran’s regime, especially by Iran’s restive civilian population, thus weakening the Islamic regime. Many in Tel Aviv and Washington are arguing that prolonged economic sanctions against Iran will likely lead to the regime’s collapse, or at least weaken it to the point that it is no longer a threat and can be forced to accept international legal norms. These views have also been voiced by Trump’s choice for the United States Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who told Congressmen on the sidelines of his Confirmation hearing that the simplest way to destroy Hezbollah is to stop the Iranian arms shipments traversing Syria. Israel is also seeking permission from the Trump White House for a green light to destroy Hezbollah bases in Lebanon and, if necessary, to neuter Iran’s air force and armed forces. To some, Trump appears to be listening.
President Putin is reportedly interested in working with Trump to end the war in Syria, as is the Ankara Government (inspired partly by revanchist interests in Ottoman imperial territory), the eleven Arab states in the eastern Middle East, NATO, and the EU among others. All have expressed varying degrees of frustration with what they viewed as Obama’s moralizing rhetoric, confused signals and unfulfilled red lines, and favor a Trump pivot to emphasize counterterrorism and security.
Part of the reason Moscow wants the Syrian conflict to end is that it is increasingly concerned about the financial and military labor costs of its involvement in Syria. Some sources claim that Putin’s government realizes that, however much Iran seeks a military solution in Syria, it will not happen no matter how many bombs are dropped. Syria is being called by some Russian analysts “Iran’s Afghanistan” and “Iran’s Vietnam.” Russian military officials have reportedly shown some interest in Trump tweets in conversation with various regional diplomats and with Former US Secretary of State John Kerry in discussions about a strong US preference for a “Middle East Minus Iran” to achieve a regional settlement.
Could Putin and Trump convince Assad to end Iran’s funneling arms to Hezbollah?
These interests and incentives raise several pressing questions. To profit from Trump’s offer of closer collaboration, would Moscow and Damascus cooperate in expelling Iran from Syria in order to thwart what they consider Iran’s deeply entrenched hegemonic colonization efforts across the Middle East? Could they succeed in this effort, and in cutting Iran out of a final peace settlement, given vows by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and his deputy, Naim Qasim, and by Iran’s “Supreme Leader” Ali Khamenei and sundry Iranian officials that they will not leave Syria? Certainly Iran has no interest in doing so, or in dismantling its regional networks while facing a new alliance among hostile actors. As of last month, the Iranian regime has also pledged that Iran will not leave Iraq, while few in Washington, Tel Aviv or the region as a whole believe Iran will ever leave Lebanon, or at least not voluntarily.
The possibilities of an Iranian withdrawal from Syria would be increased, however, if the Assad regime agreed to shed its Iranian ally and other Shia militia allies in exchange for reduced pressures from Washington and even a new pragmatic arrangement with Israel (on the model, perhaps, of Jordan). However risky, this move could indeed salvage the Assad regime and Syrian unity if a Syrian alliance could manifest to Trump as a tool of US foreign policy. Destabilizing Iran’s legitimacy as a regional hegemon, through the aforementioned war of attrition as well as propaganda, could be part of this maneuver. Hence Israel’s right wingers hope that Donald Trump can help get this difficult job done. On this basis, Bibi Netanyahu this week assured the Iranian people that Israel is their friend who commiserates with them for still being shackled by a brutal dictatorship.
Russia too, despite its tactical alliance with Iran in Syria, has an interest in expelling Iran from Syria. Syria’s importance to Russia’s interest in regaining its Cold War position as a major player in the Middle East, partly by expanding its Mediterranean base near Tartus and elsewhere, have been widely reported. But Russia’s hopes for increased power in Syria face problems with Iran. Over the past year, since Putin sent his air force and weapons to Syria, Russian-Iranian relations and Syria-Iranian relations have not always been smooth. Concerns remain about Iran’s “colonization of Syria” and about who makes the battlefield decisions about sending various forces to the front lines, where casualties will be high. Such tensions are inflamed by local Syrian grumblings about “Persian/Shia arrogance” toward Syria’s mainly Sunni Arab army. Some Iranian clerics and officials opening boast that Al Quds [Iranian] Force Commander Qasim Soleimani is effectively Syria’s military commander, while deriding the Syrian army, an attitude both irritating and alarming to Syria’s military and to the Syrian regime itself.
In any case, the Syrian regime remains much closer to its former Cold War ally than to Iran and has encouraged a close relationship: economic, political and military. Last August, Russian lawmakers ratified a deal with Syria allowing Russia to keep its forces at the Hmeimim air base in Syria’s coastal province of Latakia, Assad’s Alawite ethnic heartland, for as long as it wants. Under another agreement signed in Damascus this past week, Syria has offered Russia free use of the Soviet-era facility in Tartus for 49 years, automatically extendable for further 25-year periods. The Tartus facility is the only such outpost Russia has outside the former Soviet Union and has symbolic as well as strategic importance: in the immediate setting, it has been used to back Russia’s air campaign against rebel and ISIS forces.
Iran wants similar deals in Syria. Yet neither Moscow nor Damascus has agreed, partly because Iran has stated its intentions to create in Syria, Iraq and Yemen what it has imposed on Lebanon—which its Sunni and Christian critics claim has essentially destroyed the sovereignty of all four. The Assad regime knows well that no return to “One Syria” is possible if Iran does not withdraw and remove its armed forces, security agencies and growing political structures.
United States officials have expressed similar negative views, following a posture of antipathy and aggression toward Iran most recently dramatized in the nuclear energy controversy and flagged by demonizing rhetoric by US Congress people as well as Israeli officials. According to US Congressional sources and the Israeli US lobby’s pitch man Dennis Ross, “Israel’s best friend” Trump can resolve the Syrian crisis but not with Iran involved. Ross and his ilk claim Iran is a much bigger problem for Syria and the region than ISIS, which many in Congress, the Pentagon and the CIA insist can and will be contained. Others argue that, in any event, Iran was one of the several “Mothers of ISIS,” its being (they argue) partly Iran’s creation, and claiming that Iran continues to do financial and political business with ISIS even though the Caliphate is now targeting Shias above all.
We may soon have answers to how Trump’s reported “Syria without Iran” initiative fares in the swirling maelstrom of the proxy wars which continue in this ancient land.
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Trump Blocks Syrian Refugees and Orders Mexican Border Wall to Be Built

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It would also suspend any immigration for at least 30 days from a number of predominantly Muslim countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — while the government toughened its already stringent screening procedures to weed out potential terrorists.
White House officials declined to comment on the coming plan, but in a wide-ranging interview that aired Wednesday on ABC, Mr. Trump acknowledged that it aimed to erect formidable barriers for those seeking refuge in the United States.
“It’s going to be very hard to come in,” Mr. Trump said. “Right now, it’s very easy to come in.”
An early draft of an executive order that President Donald J. Trump is expected to issue as early as Thursday outlines his plans to indefinitely block Syrian refugees from entering the United States and institute a temporary halt on all refugees from the rest of the world.
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He also said his administration would “absolutely do safe zones in Syria” to discourage refugees from seeking safety in other countries, and chided Europe and Germany in particular for accepting millions of immigrants. “It’s a disaster, what’s happening there,” Mr. Trump said.
Taken together, the moves would turn the full weight of the federal government to fortifying the United States border, rounding up some of the 11 million people who are in the country illegally and targeting refugees, who are often among the world’s most vulnerable people. It is an aggressive use of presidential power that follows through on the nationalistic vision Mr. Trump presented during his presidential campaign.
“A nation without borders is not a nation,” Mr. Trump said Wednesday at the Department of Homeland Security, where he signed the orders alongside the newly sworn-in secretary, John F. Kelly. “Beginning today, the United States of America gets back control of its borders.”
The plans are a sharp break with former President Barack Obama’s approach and what was once a bipartisan consensus to devise a path to citizenship for some of the nation’s illegal immigrants. Mr. Obama, however, angered many immigrant groups by deporting millions of unauthorized workers, largely during his first term.
But Mr. Trump, whose campaign rallies were filled with chants from his supporters of “build the wall,” has vowed to go much further. He has often described unauthorized immigrants as criminals who must be found and forcibly removed from the United States, as he did again on Wednesday.
“We are going to get the bad ones out — the criminals and the drug dealers and gangs and gang members,” Mr. Trump said. “The day is over when they can stay in our country and wreak havoc. We are going to get them out, and we are going to get them out fast.”
The president had invited the families of people killed by unauthorized immigrants to watch him sign the orders alongside Homeland Security employees, and he asked each of them to stand in turn, telling of the deaths of their relatives, which he said had inspired his policies.
“We hear you, we see you, and you will never, ever be ignored again,” Mr. Trump said, contending that they had been “victimized by open borders.”
The order would also indefinitely block all refugees from Syria.
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The immigration orders drew furious condemnation from civil rights and religious groups as well as immigrant advocacy organizations. The groups described them as meanspirited, counterproductive and costly and said the new policies would raise constitutional concerns while undermining the American tradition of welcoming people from around the world.
“They’re setting out to unleash this deportation force on steroids, and local police will be able to run wild, so we’re tremendously concerned about the impact that could have on immigrants and families across the country,” said Joanne Lin, senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union. “After today’s announcement, the fear quotient is going to go up exponentially.”
Lynn Tramonte, the deputy director of America’s Voice Education Fund, an immigration advocacy group, said Mr. Trump was “wasting no time taking a wrecking ball to the Statue of Liberty.” She called the orders “a dramatic, radical and extreme assault on immigrants and the values of our country.”
The orders also rankled officials in countries around the world. President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico, who had planned to travel to Washington next week to meet with Mr. Trump, let it be known that he was considering canceling his trip, senior Mexican officials said.
Mr. Trump has claimed that Mexico will ultimately pay for the wall, but officials there have repeatedly said they have no intention of doing so.
Conservative organizations in the United States and some Republican lawmakers praised Mr. Trump’s moves, saying they would usher in overdue enforcement of crucial homeland security laws that Mr. Obama had refused to carry out.
“This looks like a return to enforcing the immigration laws, which is something that President Obama strayed from and has not been prioritized in a very long time,” said Tommy Binion, the director of policy outreach at the conservative-aligned Heritage Foundation. “To have President Trump focus on the problems immigration is bringing us as a nation is a relief. Finally, we have a government that recognizes the tragedies that we’re facing.”
Mr. Trump will not be able to accomplish the goals laid out in the immigration orders by himself. Congress would have to appropriate new funding for the construction of a wall, which some have estimated could cost tens of billions of dollars. Nonetheless, Mr. Trump directed federal agencies to use existing funds as a start to the wall and formally called for the hiring of an additional 5,000 Border Patrol agents and 10,000 immigration officers.
The order would threaten the nation’s roughly three dozen sanctuary cities — jurisdictions that limit their cooperation with federal authorities seeking to detain unauthorized immigrants — with losing federal grant money if they do not comply with such requests.
At the same time, Mr. Trump is reviving a program called Secure Communities, ended by the Obama administration, in which federal officials use digital fingerprints shared by local law enforcement departments to find and deport immigrants who commit crimes.
The provisions are chilling to many immigration advocates, who argued that they could sweep up unauthorized immigrants beyond the criminals Mr. Trump says he wants to target. Among those listed as priorities for removal are those who have “engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency,” which would essentially include any undocumented worker who has signed an employment agreement in the United States.
The order also includes a section that directs federal agencies to adjust their privacy policies to exclude unauthorized immigrants, in effect allowing the sharing of their personal identifying information, which could be used to track and apprehend them.
“With today’s sweeping and constitutionally suspect executive actions, the president is turning his back on both our history and our values as a proud nation of immigrants,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader. “Wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on a border wall Mexico will never pay for, and punishing cities that do not want their local police forces forced to serve as President Trump’s deportation dragnet, does nothing to fix our immigration system or keep Americans safe.”
The order on refugees is in line with a Muslim ban that Mr. Trump proposed during the campaign, though it does not single out any particular religion. It orders the secretary of state and the secretary of Homeland Security to prioritize those who are persecuted members of religious minorities, essentially ensuring that Christians living in predominantly Muslim countries would be at the top of the list.
“In order to protect Americans,” the order states, “we must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward our country and its founding principles.”
It says that for the time being, admitting anyone from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen is “detrimental to the interests of the United States.”
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Report: Israel okays historic plan to absorb child refugees from Syria war - Israel News

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syrian refugees
Syrian refugee children pose as they play near their families' residence at Al Zaatari refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, January 30, 2016.. (photo credit:REUTERS)
Israel has allegedly agreed, for the first time, to grant asylum to some 100 children orphaned by neighboring Syria's bloody civil war, Channel 10 News reported Wednesday night.
According to the report, Interior Minister Arye Deri recently approved the humanitarian plan under which Israel would absorb the child refugees from Syria.

The historic move has yet to materialize, but outlines of the plan are said to entail an initial three-month accommodation of the children in Israeli dormitories. In the following stage, the Syrian orphans will be integrated into Education Ministry institutions and also possibly taken in by foster and adoptive families. 
According to Channel 10, the Syrian children will be brought to Israel on temporary residency status. That status will allow them to receive Israeli identification cards, however it will not immediately qualify them for national passports. It was not initially clear if the Syrian children residing in Israel would be able to apply for travel documents en lieu of a passport. 
Under the purported initiative, the state plans to inform the United Nations that after four years of residency in the country, the children will become eligible for permanent residency status, authorizing their indefinite legal stay in Israel.  
In addition, the Israeli government is reportedly considering residency sponsorship parameters to allow the legal immigration of the orphaned children's immediate family members, if they are later found alive. 
After nearly six years of war, millions of Syrians have fled their homes. Hundreds of thousands have been killed.
(Under cover of the night, Syrians seek help from Israel)
According to the IDF, Israel has allowed more than 2600 Syrians in for medical care. Israel has, however, thus far refused to accept refugees from Syria, with which it is still technically at war.
After the brutal battles in Aleppo late last year, Israel began looking into taking in Syrian orphans from the devastated city, either for a short or lengthier period of time, an Israeli official said earlier this week. Yet, the source added that project is still far off if it does eventually happen. 

Reuters contributed to this report.
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Kremlin Cautious On U.S. Plan For Syria 'Safe Zones'

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Russia has reacted cautiously to a U.S. plan for "safe zones" in Syria, saying that Washington did not consult with Moscow on the matter and that all possible consequences should be examined.
U.S. President Donald Trump said on January 25 he intended to set up such zones for refugees in Syria, a move related to his sweeping plans to limit immigration to the United States.
Reports say Trump is directing the Pentagon and State Department to produce a plan within three months, according to a draft executive order he is expected to sign in the coming days.
"No, our American partners did not consult with us," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on January 26. "It's a sovereign decision."
Peskov said it was necessary to "thoroughly calculate all possible consequences" and that "it's important that this [plan] does not exacerbate the situation with refugees."
Turkey and a Syrian Islamist group say they have always supported the idea of safe zones in Syria, but would need to review the U.S. plan before commenting.
"We support any plan to protect civilians, but we will have to know details of this plan," Yasser al-Youssef of the Nureddine al-Zinki faction told the dpa news agency.
Despite some skepticism, Youssef also said the proposal could "be a blow to the Russian-Iranian expansionist plan in Syria."
Moscow and Tehran back President Bashar al-Assad’s government in the six-year-old Syrian war, while Ankara supports the opposition.
"What's important is the results of this study and what kind of recommendation will come out," Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Huseyin Muftuoglu said.
"Turkey has from the start suggested this. Jarabulus is the best example," he said, referring to a Syrian border town taken in August by Turkish-backed Syrian rebels from Islamic State fighters.
Qatar, another backer of rebels fighting Assad’s government, welcomed Trump's comments.
The state news agency QNA quoted Foreign Ministry official Ahmad al-Rumaihi as emphasizing "the need to provide safe havens in Syria and to impose no-fly zones to ensure the safety of civilians."
In the Lebanese capital, Beirut, EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini said it was too early to comment on the U.S. plan for safe zones in Syria. The bloc "will consider plans when they come," she said.
In an interview with ABC News broadcast late on January 25, Trump said he would "absolutely do safe zones in Syria for the people," stressing that he decided on the plan after watching the European Union struggle with a major refugee crisis spawned in large part by the Syrian civil war.
"I think that Europe has made a tremendous mistake by allowing these millions of people to go into Germany and various other countries," Trump told ABC.
Trump indicated that he sees the establishment of safe zones in Syria as one way of stemming what he sees as a threat of terrorism from admitting refugees and other immigrants or visitors from Muslim countries into the United States.
U.S. media are reporting that an executive order on safe zones that Trump is readying will be issued in conjunction with separate orders halting all resettlement of refugees from Syria in the United States, and suspending U.S. visas for people from Syria, Iraq, Iran, and other select Muslim countries until an aggressive system of vetting is in place.
Reuters claims to have seen the draft executive order on safe zones.
It said the order requires the Pentagon and State Department to come up with a plan within 90 days "to provide safe areas in Syria and in the surrounding region in which Syrian nationals displaced from their homeland can await firm settlement such as repatriation or potential third-country resettlement."
Reuters and AP said the document gives no details on what would constitute a safe zone, exactly where they might be set up, and who would defend them.
Jordan, Turkey, and other neighboring countries already host millions of Syrian refugees.
While various U.S. politicians have raised the possibility of establishing safe zones in Syria, including Trump's Democratic opponent in the November presidential election, Hillary Clinton, former President Barack Obama resisted the proposal out of concern that it would pull the United States more deeply into the six-year-old civil war in Syria and possibly lead to clashes with Russian forces waging an air campaign there.
The clashes could occur if Trump chooses to enforce "no fly" restrictions over the safe zones he is planning.
Moreover, U.S. ground forces likely would also be needed to protect civilians in the zones, greatly increasing the cost of intervention both in terms of money spent and lives at risk.
U.S. military officials have long warned that the creation of no-fly or safe zones inside Syria would require far more resources than those already devoted to fighting against the Islamic State in Syria, and it would be difficult to ensure that militants do not infiltrate the zones amid the chaos of Syria's civil war.
While campaigning, Trump suggested that he would ask wealthy Persian Gulf states to help pay for such safe havens.
On Trump's broader anti-immigration plans, Reuters reported that Trump's draft executive order temporarily barring refugees from Syria and other countries unless they are persecuted religious minorities asserts that the measures are needed to "protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals."
AP reported that the draft order says its purpose is to make sure anyone allowed to enter the United States doesn't "bear hostile attitudes toward our country and its founding principles."
"We cannot, and should not, admit into our country those who do not support the U.S. Constitution or those who place violent religious edicts over American law," Trump states in the order, according to AP.
Human rights groups denounced Trump's anti-immigrant plans.
"The president needs to know he's an absolute fool for fostering this kind of hostility in his first few days. This will inflame violence against Americans around the world," said Seth Kaper-Dale, a pastor at the Reformed Church of Highland Park, New Jersey, which he said helped resettle 28 refugee and asylum-seeking families in the state last year.
"Never before in our country's history have we purposely, as a matter of policy, imposed a ban on immigrants or refugees on the basis of religion," said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, calling it "a disturbing confirmation of Islamophobia" that was evident throughout Trump's presidential campaign.
"Actions to build a wall around us, criminalize a religion, and to strike fear in the heart of immigrants make Trump's America look more like a police state than the republic we truly are," said Wade Henderson, president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
With reporting by ABC, Reuters, and AP
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Trump says he will 'absolutely do safe zones' in Syria

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U.S. military officials had long warned that the creation of no-fly zones inside Syria would require a large number of additional resources beyond the fight against Islamic State and it would be difficult to ensure that jihadist insurgents did not infiltrate those areas amid the chaos of Syria's civil war.
Some Republican lawmakers have advocated the creation of such zones, especially to protect civilians fleeing the conflict against attacks by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
During and after the presidential campaign, Trump called for no-fly zones to harbor Syrian refugees as an alternative to allowing them into the United States. Trump accused the Obama administration of failing to properly screen Syrian immigrants entering the United States to ensure they had no militant ties.
Obama's aides have insisted the vetting was meticulous and none of the Syrian refugees allowed in have been implicated in any attacks.
On the campaign trail, Trump gave no details as to how he might go about creating such havens, except to say that he would ask Gulf states to help pay.
"All the questions of setting up a safe zone are still there," a U.S. official said. "If you're going to declare a safe zone, there's a lot of other things" that would have to be analyzed and put in place before it becomes feasible.
Among the biggest questions would be how to avoid confrontations with Russian forces in Syria helping keep Assad in power.
Under the broader executive order, which the draft document says is intended to "protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals," Trump would impose a 30-day suspension of the entry of immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
The temporary halt is aimed at giving the homeland security secretary, the secretary of state and the director of national intelligence enough time to determine what information is needed from each country to ensure visas are not issued to individuals that pose a national security threat, according to the draft.
Countries that do not provide adequate information about their nationals will be required to do so within 60 days or risk being blocked from entering the United States. That would exclude diplomatic visas, NATO visas and visas for travel to the United Nations.
It would also suspend the overall U.S. refugee program for 120 days so the government can study the process and determine if additional checks are necessary, but that could be waived on a case-by-case basis. It would completely stop refugee processing of Syrians until "I have determined that sufficient changes have been made" to the refugee program to ensure "its alignment with national interest," the draft said.
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Kremlin: US plan for safe zones in Syria needs to be careful

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MOSCOW –  The Kremlin says a U.S. plan for safe zones in Syria should be thoroughly considered.
Asked to comment on a draft executive order that President Donald Trump is expected to sign this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, underlined the importance to "thoroughly calculate all possible consequences" of the measure. He noted Thursday that "it's important not to exacerbate the situation with refugees."
While suspending visas for Syrians and others, the order directs the Pentagon and the State Department to produce a plan for safe zones in Syria and the surrounding area within 90 days.
Safe zones, proposed by both Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton during the campaign, were considered by the Obama administration years ago and ruled out, in part because of Russia's air campaign in Syria.
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Page 7

Trump Expected to Order Syrian 'Safe Zones' for Refugees

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President Donald Trump is expected to order the Pentagon and State Department to produce a plan in coming days for setting up “safe zones” for refugees in Syria and neighboring countries, according to a document seen by Reuters, a move that could risk escalation of U.S. military involvement in Syria’s civil war.
The draft executive order awaiting Trump’s signature signaled the new administration was preparing a step that Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama long resisted, fearing the potential for being pulled deeper into the conflict and the threat of clashes between U.S. and Russian warplanes over Syria.
"The Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Secretary of Defense, is directed within 90 days of the date of this order to produce a plan to provide safe areas in Syria and in the surrounding region in which Syrian nationals displaced from their homeland can await firm settlement, such as repatriation or potential third-country resettlement," the draft order said.
Syrian children stand behind a fence at a refugee camp in the Kilis district of Gaziantep, Turkey, October 23. Turkey is hosting more than 2.7 million registered Syrian refugees. OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images
Creation of safe zones, if Trump decides to do so, could ratchet up U.S. military involvement in Syria and mark a major departure from Obama’s approach. If Trump decided to enforce “no fly” restrictions over such areas, it would require increased U.S. or allied air power. It could also demand some type of ground forces to provide security.
Still, the document gave no details on what would constitute a safe zone, exactly where they might be set up and who would defend them. Jordan, Turkey and other neighboring countries already host millions of Syrian refugees.
U.S. military officials had long warned that creation of no-fly zones inside Syria would require a large number of additional resources beyond the fight against Islamic State and it would be difficult to ensure that jihadist insurgents did not infiltrate those areas.
Republican lawmakers have advocated the creation of such zones, especially to protect against forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
During the presidential campaign, Trump called for no-fly zones to harbor refugees as an alternative to allowing them into the United States. Trump accused the Obama administration of failing to properly screen Syrian refugees entering the United States to guarantee they had no militant ties.
Trump’s call for a plan for safe zones is part of a larger document that includes a temporary ban on most refugees to the United States and a suspension of visas for citizens of Syria and six other Middle Eastern and African countries, according to congressional aides and immigration experts briefed on the matter.
“All the questions of setting up a safe zone are still there,” a U.S. official said. “If you're going to declare a safe zone, there's a lot of other things" that would have to be analyzed and put in place before it becomes feasible.
Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has warned that any move to deny Syria and Russia access to all of Syria's airspace would require the United to “go to war against Syria and Russia.”
“That’s a pretty fundamental decision that certainly I’m not going to make,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
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Indian snake charmer village struggles to keep dying tradition alive - YouTube

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Published on Jan 26, 2017
Wildlife protection regulations and dwindling performance opportunities challenge India's snake charming village. Samantha Vadas reports.

The White House Interview: Part 1 | ABC News - YouTube

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Published on Jan 26, 2017
President Trump discusses his first week in office and his claims about widespread voter fraud.

The White House Interview: Part 2 | ABC News - YouTube

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Published on Jan 26, 2017
President Trump discusses his stance on the use of torture and his timeline for the wall along the border.

Oil edges down as traders weigh U.S. stock build, OPEC cuts

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Russian intelligence FSB arrest cybersecurity manager from Kaspersky

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An employee works near screens in the virus lab at the headquarters of Russian cyber security company Kaspersky Labs in Moscow July 29, 2013.  REUTERS/Sergei KarpukhinAn employee works near screens in the virus lab at the headquarters of Russian cyber security company Kaspersky Labs in Moscow Thomson Reuters
A key cybercrime investigator at Russia's biggest cybersecurity firm, Kaspersky, was arrested on charges of treason last month, Russia's Kommersant newspaper reported on Wednesday.
Kaspersky Lab confirmed to the Associated Press that Ruslan Stoyanov, head of its computer incidents investigations unit, was arrested in December.
Stoyanov was arrested along with a senior Russian FSB intelligence officer, Sergei Mikhailov, according to Kommersant. Mikhailov, who also faces treason charges, was the deputy head of the information security department of the FSB, Russia's national security service.
Investigators are examining money that Stoyanov allegedly received from foreign companies or entities, according to Kommersant. A source told the paper that the case has been filed under article 275 of Russia's criminal code, which allows the government to prosecute an individual suspected of aiding a foreign state or organization.
"Stoyanov was involved in every big arrest of cybercriminals in Russia in past years," a source familiar with Stoyanov's past work told Forbes.
Kaspersky said in a statement posted on its website that "the case against this employee does not involve Kaspersky Lab."
"The employee, who is Head of the Computer Incidents Investigation Team, is under investigation for a period predating his employment at Kaspersky Lab," the statement continued. "We do not possess details of the investigation. The work of Kaspersky Lab’s Computer Incidents Investigation Team is unaffected by these developments.”
Kaspersky Lab is a leading cybersecurity firm that helps millions of people worldwide, including Americans, protect their data from cybercriminals. While the firm is often aggressive in its pursuit of foreign hackers, however, it doesn't pursue alleged Russian cyber operations "with the same vigor," according to a 2015 Bloomberg investigation.
Eugene Kaspersky, the firm's billionaire founder and CEO,  was educated at a KGB-sponsored cryptography institute before working for Russian military intelligence . He reportedly maintains relationships with former and current Russian intelligence officials, but has pushed back against claims that his company works with the Kremlin.
Stoyanov's previous jobs, listed on LinkedIn, include a position at the Moscow Cyber Crime Unit at the Russian Interior Ministry that he held between 2000-2006. He moved into the private sector to work at Kaspersky in July 2012, according to his LinkedIn page.
It wasn't immediately clear if the arrests are somehow linked to the US intelligence community's conclusion that Russian hackers, at the Kremlin's order, broke into Democratic National Committee servers and Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta's inbox during the election.
"Treason charges are by no means rare (see this case or this even more farcical one, which in fairness was eventually tossed out), so it is hard to know at this stage what is involved," Mark Galeotti, a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations specializing in Russian security affairs, said in an email. "But simply the suspicion of passing information to foreigners for cash or carelessly might be enough."
Andrei Soldatov, however, who has studied the internet and Russian security services for more than a decade, called the arrest of the Kaspersky manager "unprecedented."
"It destroys a system that has been 20 years in the making, the system of relations between intelligence agencies and companies like Kaspersky," Soldatov told The Associated Press. "Intelligence agencies used to ask for Kaspersky's advice, and this is how informal ties were built. This romance is clearly over."
In an email to Business Insider, Soldatov clarified that the case, for now, "seems to be more about corruption than anything else." 
Stoyanov was "seen as a sort of broker" between an unnamed foreign company and the detained FSB official, Sergei Mikhailov, Soldatov said. So the treason charges could have been a result of him facilitating foreign access to someone with Russian security clearance. 
"So far," Soldatov said, "I see no evidence to link this case to Russia's hacking."
The Associated Press contributed reporting.
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The US Navy plans to fire laser weapons off of ships within a year

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laws laser weapon navy USS Ponce conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research-sponsored Laser Weapon System, LaWS, while deployed to the Arabian Gulf. US Navy Photo
The U.S. Navy is moving at warp speed to develop lasers with more lethality, precision and power sources as a way to destroy attacking missiles, drones aircraft and other threats. 
“We’re doing a lot more with lasers," Rear Adm. Ronald Boxall, director, Surface Warfare Division, said earlier this month at the annual Surface Naval Association national symposium.
The Navy plans to fire a 150-kw weapon off a test ship within a year, he said. “Then a year later, we’ll have that on a carrier or a destroyer or both.”
That’s quite a jump from the kw AN/SEQ-3(XN-1) Laser Weapon System (LaWS), which deployed in 2014 on the amphibious transport dock USS Ponce.
And the kind of power needed to power such a weapon won’t come with a simple flip of a switch.
“The Navy will be looking at ships’ servers to provide three times that much power,” says Donald Klick, director of business development, for DRS Power and Control Technologies. “To be putting out 150 kws, they (the laser systems) will be consuming 450 kws.”
That is more than most currently operational ships are designed to accommodate, at least when they are conducting other tasks. “Few power systems onboard ships can support sustained usage of a high-powered laser without additional energy storage,” noted a recent Naval Postgraduate School paper titled “Power Systems and Energy Storage Modeling for Directed Energy Weapons”.
The paper said, “The new DDG-1000 may have enough electrical energy, but other platforms … may require some type of ‘energy magazine.’ This magazine stores energy for on-demand usage by the laser. It can be made up of batteries, capacitors, or flywheels, and would recharge between laser pulses. The energy magazine should allow for sustained usage against a swarm of targets in an engagement lasting up to twenty minutes.
Laser Weapon System LAWSThe US Navy Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15) conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf. John F. Williams/US Navy
The ship’s integrated power system, which includes its electric propulsion, helps generate up to 78 megawatts of on-board electrical power, something seen as key to the future when it comes to ship technologies and the application of anticipated future weapons systems such as laser weapons and rail guns. The ship’s electric drive uses two main turbine generations with two auxiliary turbine generators which power up two 35-megawatt advanced induction motors, developers explained.
Ideally, it would charge up as fast as it discharges, allowing for indefinite use (as long as there is ship’s fuel to expend). Low maintenance, high safety, and long lifespan are other desirable characteristics.
DRS Power and Control Technologies is one of the companies which is developing a specialized energy source. “We have enough for well over 100 shots before we go to recharge,” DRS’s Klick said during a break at SNA, pointing out there’s even a mode for continuous recharge. “If you’ve got power this kind of power, you don’t go Winchester.”
The DRS system uses a Li-Ion battery subsystem designed and provided by Lithiumstart housed in three distributed steel, welded cabinets that are 48” x 66” x 100” – although they are modular, Klick says, and can be arranged for a tailored fit. Each cabinet contains 18 drawers with 480 Li-Ion phosphate cells in each drawer.
The redundant power modules can provide 465 k each for a total of 930 kw. It can hold that full-power mark for about three minutes, Klick says – although most “lases” are normally of relatively short duration.
An at-sea demonstration of the magazine is slated for 2018, Klick says, mostly with the 150-kw laser being developed by Northrop Grumman for the Office of Naval Research.
The system still must go through rigorous Navy certification testing, Klick says.
c130Lockheed Martin C-130 in flight. Lockheed Martin
He also sees the energy magazine as a candidate for other U.S. military units. “We’re looking at Air Force Special Forces on a C-130. You have to strike a car, but you’re worried about collateral damage. With that pinpoint accuracy, you don’t have to worry about collateral damage. You can just cause a car to stop running. There’s a lot more capability.”

Long-Term Effort

The Navy has already been working with Northrop Grumman on a three-year deal to develop a ship-board laser weapon engineered to quickly incinerate enemy drones, small boats, aircraft, ships and missiles, service officials told Scout Warrior.
"This system employs multi-spectral target detection and track capabilities as well as an advanced off-axis beam director with improved fiber laser technologies to provide extended target engagement ranges. Improvements of high power fiber lasers used to form the laser beam enable the increased power levels and extended range capabilities. Lessons learned, operating procedures, updated hardware and software derived from previous systems will be incorporated in this demonstration," Dr. Tom Beutner, director of the Air Warfare and Weapons branch, Office of Naval Research, told Scout Warrior in a written statement at the time of the contract announcement. 
A previously established 12-month, $53-million deal between Northrop and the Office of Naval Research will develop a Laser Weapon System Demonstrator through three phases; the phases include an initial design phase, ground-testing phase and then weapons testing at sea aboard a Navy Self Defense test ship, a Northrop statement said.
“The company will design, produce, integrate, and support the shipboard testing of a 150-kilowatt-class solid state (electric) laser weapon system,” the Northrop statement added. “The contract could grow to a total value of $91 million over 34 months if ONR exercises all of its contract options.”
Office of Naval Research officials told Scout Warrior an aim of the developmental program is to engineer a prototype weapons for further analysis.
“The possibilities can become integrated prototypes -- and the prototypes become reality when they become acquisition programs,” an ONR official said.
It is not yet clear when this weapon might be operational but the intention seems to be to arm surface ships such as destroyers, cruisers and possibly even carriers or an LCS with inexpensive offensive or defensive laser weapons technology.
“It is way too early to determine if this system will ever become operational. Northrop Grumman has been funded to set-up a demo to "demonstrate" the capabilities to senior leadership, who will then determine whether it is an asset worth further funding and turning into a program of record,” a Navy official told Scout Warrior.
Both Navy and Northrop Grumman officials often talk about the cost advantages of firing laser weapons to incinerate incoming enemy attacks or destroy enemy targets without having to expend an interceptor missile worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Navy officials describe this as getting ahead of the cost curve.
"For about the price of a gallon of diesel fuel per shot, we're offering the Navy a high-precision defensive approach that will protect not only its sailors, but also its wallet," said Guy Renard, director and program manager, directed energy, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.
As mentioned, the Navy has already deployed one laser system, called the Laser Weapons System, or LaWS, which has been operational for months.
LaWS uses heat energy from lasers to disable or destroy targets fast, slow, stationary and moving targets. The system has successfully incinerated UAVs and other targets in tests shots, and has been operational aboard an amphibious transport dock in the Persian Gulf, the USS Ponce.
The scalable weapon is designed to destroy threats for about $59-cents per shot, an amount that is exponentially lower that the hundreds of thousands or millions needed to fire an interceptor missile such as the Standard Missile-2, Navy officials explained.
While at sea, sailors have been using the LaWS for targeting and training exercises every day and the weapon has even been used to disable and destroy some targets, service officials said. 
Navy sailors and engineers have discovered some unanticipated intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance value from the laser weapons system by using its long-range telescope to scan for targets as well, Navy officials said.
USS Zumwalt 1U.S. Navy
Laser weapons are expected to figure prominently in the Navy's future plans in several respects. New Navy platforms such as the high-tech destroyer, the DDG 1000 or USS Zumwalt, is engineered with an electric drive propulsion system and extra on-board electrical power called an Integrated Power System. This system is in part designed to power-up ship electrical systems and accommodate emerging future weapons systems such as lasers and rail guns. 
"Laser weapons provide deep magazines, low cost per shot, and precision engagement capabilities with variable effects that range from dazzling to structural defeat against asymmetric threats that are facing the US Naval force,"  Beutner added. 
In addition, laser weapons integrate fully into the Navy's emerging "distributed lethality" strategy aimed at better arming the surface fleet with a wide array of offensive and defensive weapons. 
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