Scott Walker ends presidential campaign, calls on other Republicans to do the same On Monday, September 21st, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker will announce he’s dropping out of the race for 2016. Walker was once considered a strong contender for the Republican nomination, but now becomes just the second hopeful to throw in the towel. Yahoo News will carry the Governor’s remarks live at 6PM ET.Meredith Shiner and Jon Ward
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker dropped out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination Monday, ending a brief and largely unsuccessful bid for the White House by encouraging other Republicans to also suspend their campaigns for the “good” of the party.Walker took a not-so-veiled shot at current GOP frontrunner Donald Trump in his brief remarks from Madison, Wis., and used Trump’s traction with base voters as a reason why other struggling GOP candidates should help clear the way for “positive conservative” candidates who can defeat the reality TV star-turned-political juggernaut. “Today I believe I’m being called to lead by helping to clear the field in this race so that a positive conservative message can rise to the top of the field. With this in mind, I will suspend my campaign immediately,” Walker said. “I encourage other Republican presidential candidates to do the same so that voters can focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive, conservative alternative to the current frontrunner. This is fundamentally important to the future of the party — more importantly, to the future of our country.”The New York Times was the first to report the imminent end of Walker’s campaign.But Walker’s focus on Trump on Monday obscured the more significant reasons for him to end his campaign, chiefly his plummeting in recent polls and inability to take consistent stands on a number of important issues, like immigration.Walker’s decision to end his bid for the Republican nomination comes just two months after he launched an official campaign and brings to a close a brief but well-documented fight to win the most rightward base of the GOP while also struggling to raise the money necessary to contend for the White House amid a sprawling field of candidates. As recently as June, Walker led the crowded Republican field in Iowa, where he was expected to lay the foundation for his candidacy with the state’s powerful social conservatives. But surges from outsider candidates Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina — none of whom have formal government experience — completely drowned out Walker’s antiestablishment campaign.A CNN/ORC poll released Sunday found that Walker, who was once leading the crowded GOP field, registered less than half a percentage point of support among Republican voters.Ironically, the once-winning focus of Walker’s campaign — his biography as a conservative firebrand who prevailed in three gubernatorial campaigns over five years against immense pressure from Democrats — would become a stumbling block.Recent polling suggests that more than half of the Republican base supports a candidate with no government experience at all. And unlike another conservative governor running for the presidency, former Florida chief executive Jeb Bush, Walker did not have a huge war chest to keep him afloat while as many as 17 candidates in the still-early primary contest vied for the base’s affection.Over the months he was formally running, it became clear that Republican voters’ enthusiasm for Walker would not match the enthusiasm his candidacy generated in the Washington chattering class before he got in the race.A large part of the problem was Walker’s inability to simultaneously please the establishment Republicans he needed to donate big dollars to his campaign and energize a conservative base often at odds with those donors.No single issue illustrated that tension more than immigration.Walker had once been the favorite of the well-financed and extremely powerful Koch brothers, among the most significant donors in a political system overrun with cash. But his waffling on immigration reform, which the Kochs support and Walker himself once backed, was widely reportedto have been the source of his fall from their favor.Walker had supported reform and in a telling July New York Times story had assured an official from a preeminent conservative think tank in Washington that “I’m not going nativist, I’m pro-immigration.” The official later recanted that story after days of pressure from the Walker campaign.Later, in August, Walker flipped his position on birthright citizenshipthree times in seven days, first saying he believed birthright citizenship should be ended, then saying he wouldn’t take a position on the issue — only to change his stance again by week’s end, denouncing frontrunner Trump’s calls to eliminate birthright citizenship in a nationally televised Sunday morning interview.As Yahoo News pointed out during Walker’s July announcement, the governor already had been struggling to find footing on immigration questions even before becoming a formal candidate. At the time, an aide indicated to the National Journal that Walker could make a “more easy” pivot from being a conservative primary candidate to a more moderate general election one, even though his record did not back that claim up and such a sentiment dogged the campaign of the 2012 GOP presidential nominee. The Wisconsin governor is the second GOP candidate to bow out of the 2016 race. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry ended his presidential bid earlier this month.At an event in Washington sponsored by the National Review Online, Google and YouTube — which coincidentally was ongoing as the Walker news broke — top aides to many other GOP campaigns commented on the Wisconsin governor’s departure from the race.While those operatives’ reactions mostly centered around surprise, one political operative offered an even more generous take: that perhaps Walker was bowing out too soon.Ben Carson adviser Barry Bennett told the crowd at the NRO event that the lesson of Tim Pawlenty — the former Minnesota governor who dropped his bid early in the 2012 cycle amid a crowded field — was “don’t give up. you’re going to hit rough spots. But apparently [Walker’s] given up.”— With Yahoo News Chief White House Correspondent Olivier Knox contributing reporting
Carly Fiorina keeps a (mostly) straight face on ‘The Tonight Show’ with Jimmy FallonCaitlin Dickson Breaking News Reporter Yahoo Politics September 22, 2015Carly Fiorina talks Trump, religion and her dogs with Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show.” (Photo: Doug Gorenstein/NBC) Carly Fiorina was all business on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” Monday.Still riding the wave of her highly praised performance at last week’s GOP debate, the former Hewlett Packard CEO was welcomed to 30 Rockefeller Center with a kudos from the generally genial Fallon.“It was interesting to see you win that debate when you weren’t part of the first debate really,” the host said during the interview, which aired on NBC at 11:30 ET Monday night.Fiorina went from one of the bottom six Republican presidential contenders at the first debate in August to the top 10 after the rules for qualification were amended in response to complaints from her camp. “I earned my way onto the big stage,” Fiorina said. “When I started this race, nobody knew who I was.”According to a CNN/ORC poll released Monday, support for Fiorina among Republican voters surged from 3 percent earlier this month to 15 percent in the days following the debate, putting her in second place among the GOP field behind Donald Trump, who dropped 8 points, from 32 to 24 percent.“When people get to know me they tend to support me, and that’s what you see in the polls,” she said.For those watching at home who still might not be sure, Fallon asked, what would Fiorina like them to know?“It’s only in this country that you can go from being a secretary to the chief executive of the largest company in the world, to running for president,” Fiorina said. “I want to make sure that every American, regardless of what they look like, how they start or their circumstances, has the opportunity to find their God-given gifts. That isn’t true in America today.”Fallon stuck to his stereotypically soft line of questioning, steering clear of the controversy that has sprung up in the wake of the debate surrounding Fiorina’s graphic description of a scene from the secretly recorded — and heavily edited — Planned Parenthood video that, according to several news outlets and fact checkers, doesn’t actually exist. Instead, Fallon gave the presidential hopeful a chance to defend her heavily criticized record at Hewlett Packard and take a few jabs at GOP adversary Trump.The host also prompted Fiorina to talk about religion, asking for a response to fellow Republican candidate Ben Carson’s recent statement that a Muslim shouldn’t be able to be president of the U.S., and for her thoughts on the pope who, Fallon joked, would be staying at his apartment during his upcoming visit to New York City.“I think that’s wrong,” Fiorina said in response to Carson’s comments. “It says in our Constitution that religion cannot be a test for office.”“I believe that anyone of any faith make better leaders,” she added, noting that “my faith has sustained me” through difficult times like her battle with breast cancer and the death of her stepdaughter.“So you would be fine with [a Muslim president]?” Fallon asked.“Yes, I would be fine with that,” she replied.As for Pope Francis, Fiorina said, “One of the things I appreciate very much about the pope is he reminds us of the richness of spiritual life. He reminds us that spirituality is a source of strength. I don’t agree him on all of his politics for sure, but I admire that he’s trying to break down the bureaucracy of the church and go back to serving the poor.”The pope’s trip to the Big Apple is slated to overlap with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom Trump has expressed interest in meeting while he’s in town for the 2015 United Nations Summit.“The two of them have a lot in common,” said Fiorina, who often touts a previous meeting with Putin as evidence of her foreign policy experience. “He was kind of busting out of his shirt; he’s a barrel chested guy and proud of it.”“I would describe him as a formidable adversary,” she said of Putin. “He can be quite funny and charming, but he’s a KGB guy and we should never forget it. He’s very bad actor.” “By the way,” she added, “I wouldn’t talk to him at all. I think Donald Trump was wrong, we’ve talked way too much to Vladimir Putin.”Late-night television has long been a popular forum for presidential candidates to showcase their sense of humor and appeal to potential new voters. Fallon alone has already interviewed Republican candidates Chris Christie, Donald Trump and Jeb Bush, and last week Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton made her late-night debut on his show.
Russia deploys 28 combat planes in Syria: US officials 4 hours agoRussia has sent 12 SU-25 ground attack aircraft, similar to the one pictured here on March 26, 2015, to Syria (AFP Photo/Sergey Venyavsky)Washington (AFP) – Russia has deployed 28 combat planes in Syria, US officials said Monday, confirming the latest move in Moscow’s increasing military presence in the war-torn nation.Washington in recent weeks has expressed growing concern over Russia’s moves to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and warned that militarily backing his regime risks further hampering efforts at bringing peace.Experts said the buildup is likely a prelude to military action.”There are 28 fighter and bomber aircraft” at an airfield in the western Syrian province of Latakia, one of the officials told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.A second official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the figure and added there were also about 20 Russian combat and transport helicopters at the base.That official also said Russia was operating drones over Syria, but did not give additional details.According to the officials, Russia has sent 12 SU-24 attack aircraft, 12 SU-25 ground attack aircraft and four Flanker fighter jets.Analyst Jeffrey White of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said: „They are not going to sit around and defend the airfield or maybe even the province of Latakia.”This kind of aircraft suggests that the Russians intend to exert their combat power outside of Latakia in an offensive role.”Moscow has been on a diplomatic push to get the coalition of Western and regional powers fighting the Islamic State group in Syria to join forces with Assad against the jihadists.US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter spoke with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu on Friday, ending an 18-month freeze in military relations triggered by NATO anger over Moscow’s role in the Ukraine crisis.They agreed to continue discussions, which are crucial to lessen the risk of incidents involving coalition forces and Russian forces operating in the same air space.The US-led coalition is carrying out almost daily strikes against the jihadists in Syria.
NATO Chief Visits Ukraine to Launch Joint Exercise By Damien Sharkov18 hours agoNATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will meet Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in the country’s Lviv region on Monday to launch a joint disaster management exercise of NATO and Ukrainian emergency personnel, Ukrainian state news agency Ukrinform reports.Stoltenberg’s two-day visit to Ukraine will also take him to Kiev where he will attend a meeting of Ukraine’s defence advisory body the National Security and Defence Council. After meeting the president, the alliance’s top diplomat will be greeted by Ukraine’s prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and the speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, Volodymyr Hroisman.The president’s office reported that Stoltenberg’s visit, which comes on increase the status of NATO’s delegation in the country to that of a diplomatic one.”This visit will be a milestone,” acting Ukrainian ambassador to NATO, Yehor Bozhok told Reuters.”In Soviet times, we were ready for an attack from the West. Reality now demonstrates that the threat comes from the East,” he added, saying that the visit was aimed at agreeing a new doctrine which identifies Russia as an aggressor.Although there is mounting evidence that Russia is backing separatist rebels in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas regions, Russia officially denies any of its military officers are in the regions in any official capacity and its support for separatist-held lands is humanitarian.Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin denied earlier this month that Stoltenberg’s visit would worsen relations between Kiev and Russia further, as he said the meeting could hardly be considered an act of „further provocation” against backdrop of „Russian aggression” in eastern Ukraine.Related Articles NATO Sees Significant Pullback of Russian Troops From Ukraine ;Russia Warns NATO and U.S. Over Ukraine ;NATO Chief Visits Ukraine to Launch Joint Exercise
Hungarian army given sweeping powers against migrants By Peter Murphy10 hours agoBudapest (AFP) – Hungary’s parliament gave Monday the army and police sweeping new powers to keep migrants out as populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban warned that Europe was being „overrun”.Related Stories
„They are overrunning us. They’re not just banging on the door, they’re breaking the door down on top of us,” the right-wing Orban told lawmakers.”Our borders are in danger, our way of life built on respect for the law, Hungary and the whole of Europe is in danger,” the 52-year-old said in Budapest.”Europe hasn’t just left its doors open but has sent open invitation… Europe is rich but weak, this is the worst combination, Europe needs to be stronger to defend its borders.”The new legislation, passed with a two-thirds majority, allows the army to take part in border controls, to restrict personal liberties and to use „coercive weapons designed to cause bodily harm, although in a non-lethal way, unless it cannot be avoided.””Similar to the police, the use of non-lethal firearms, rubber bullets, pyrotechnics, tear gas grenades, and net guns can be used,” it stipulates.Coming a week after illegal border-crossing became a crime punishable by up to five years in jail, soldiers can now also check ID papers and detain suspected illegal migrants.Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban speaks during a press conference at the European Union (EU …The police meanwhile will be able to enter private homes for the purpose of carrying out a search for migrants who entered the country illegally, amongst other new powers.The rules are applicable in areas where a „state of crisis caused by mass immigration” has been declared. Last week the government declared such a state in six counties bordering Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and Austria.The Hungarian Helsinki Committee, a refugee rights group, warned that refugees should not be treated as enemies.”The extended powers of the army and police must be used with utmost care in situations involving refugees who themselves have fled from war and terror and have already suffered gravely from police and armies in their home countries,” said the group’s chief Marta Pardavi.- Sealing borders -EU member Hungary has emerged this year as a frontline state in Europe’s migrant crisis, with 225,000 travelling up from Greece through the western Balkans and entering the country from Serbia and most recently Croatia.Most then enter Austria which lets them travel onwards to Germany.Last week Hungary sealed its southern border with Serbia, forcing tens of thousands of migrants to enter Croatia, from where many then again crossed into Hungary and headed for Austria and beyond.The country has erected a razor-wire barrier along its 175-kilometre (110-mile) border with Serbia and along 40 kilometres of its border with Croatia not marked by the Drava river.It is also building a four-metre high fence along its border with Serbia and is planning to erect a barrier along its frontier with Romania too.Hungary has been widely criticised for its treatment of the migrants, including in clashes last week when police used tear gas and water cannon against protesters throwing stones and other missiles.Orban argues that Hungary is applying EU regulations and blames Greece for waving migrants through and Germany — the migrants’ main destinations — for relaxing asylum rules for people fleeing Syria’s civil war and Islamic State extremists.He also rejects that the new arrivals are refugees, saying they are either „economic migrants” in search of a better life or Syrians who voluntarily left camps outside Syria where their lives are not in danger.
Israel, Russia to coordinate military action on Syria: Netanyahu By Maria Tsvetkova12 hours agoIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their …By Maria Tsvetkova Related Stories
NOVO-OGARYOVO, Russia (Reuters) – Israel and Russia agreed on Monday to coordinate military actions over Syria in order to avoid accidentally trading fire, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a visit to Moscow.Recent Russian reinforcements for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which regional sources say include warplanes and anti-aircraft systems, worry Israel, whose jets have on occasion bombed the neighboring Arab country to foil suspected handovers of advanced arms to Assad’s Lebanese guerrilla ally Hezbollah.Briefing Israeli reporters after he met Russian President Vladimir Putin, Netanyahu said he had come with the goal of „prevent(ing) misunderstandings between IDF (Israel Defense Force) units and Russian forces” in Syria, where Assad is fighting Islamist-dominated insurgents in a civil war.Netanyahu added that he and Putin „agreed on a mechanism to prevent such misunderstandings”. He did not elaborate. There was no immediate comment from the Kremlin.In earlier remarks as he welcomed Netanyahu to the presidential residence of Novo-Ogaryovo, outside Moscow, Putin said Russian actions in the Middle East would always be „responsible”.Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their …Underlining the importance of Netanyahu’s one-day visit to Moscow, Israel’s premier took along the chief of its armed forces and the general in charge of Israeli military intelligence.Putin, who shares Western concern about the spread of Islamic State influence, has pledged to continue military support for Assad, assistance that Russia says is in line with international law. Russia has been focusing forces on Syria’s coast, where Moscow keeps a big Mediterranean naval base.The United States, which along with its allies has been flying missions against Islamic State insurgents in Syria, has also been holding so-called „deconfliction” talks with Russia.KEEPING U.S. INFORMED Netanyahu told Israeli reporters that he had informed the Americans „on each and every detail” of his Moscow visit, adding: „Everyone has an interest in avoiding an unnecessary clash” over Syria.A U.S. official told Reuters that U.S.-Israeli coordination allowed the allies to share classified technologies for identifying Russian aircraft over Syria: „We know how to spot them clearly and quickly,” the official said.Separately, U.S. officials said Russia had started flying surveillance missions with drone aircraft in Syria in what appeared to be Moscow’s first air operations there since beginning its build-up. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, could not say how many aircraft were involved.A former Netanyahu adviser said Israel was concerned that Russia’s help for Assad in battling an insurgency now in its fifth year could create a de facto axis between Moscow, Iran and Hezbollah.Iran, Israel’s arch-foe, is Assad’s other foreign backer and patron of Hezbollah, which fought Israel to a standstill in the 2006 Lebanon war. Israel worries that top-of-the-line Russian military hardware being deployed in Syria could end up in Hezbollah’s arsenal.”Our policy is to do everything to stop weapons from being sent to Hezbollah,” Netanyahu told Putin at their photo-op. He also set out Israel’s policy of striking at guerrillas suspected of preparing to attack it from the Syrian Golan, on the northern frontier – an apparent signal to Russia to steer clear there.The former Netanyahu adviser, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the issue, said any understandings reached with Putin „could come down to Israel and Russia agreeing to limit themselves to defined areas of operation in Syria, or even that they fly at daytime and we fly at night”.(Additional reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
Gazprom offers talks to settle EU antitrust case 10 hours agoThe EU accused Russian energy giant Gazprom of breaching single market rules by forbidding the resale of its gas between EU countries, allowing the Russian giant to charge unfair prices (AFP Photo/Eric Piermont)Brussels (AFP) – Gazprom on Monday submitted a proposal to answer accusations by EU antitrust regulators that the Russian energy giant imposed unfair prices on customers in eastern Europe.The European Commission in April accused state-owned Gazprom with infringing the bloc’s single market rules, which has threatened to aggravate tensions between Europe and President Vladimir Putin’s Russia when their ties are already strained over the crisis in Ukraine.”The Commission can confirm it has received a set of commitment proposals from Gazprom, which it will assess carefully,” EU spokesman Ricardo Cardoso said in an emailed statement.A settlement would end the European Union’s proceedings against Gazprom, but still force the company into accepting constraining measures that answer the accusations.Attempts to reach a settlement last year before formal accusations were made were frozen after Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its support of an insurgency in eastern Ukraine.If the EU’s claims are substantiated, Gazprom risks fines of up to 10 percent of total 2014 sales, about 9.7 billion euros.Gazprom in April firmly rejected the accusations brought forward by Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s Competition Commissioner who is also leading a similar high profile case against Google.Gazprom in a statement confirmed its proposal, adding: „We hope to discuss this proposal with the representatives of the Commission in the near future in order to come to a settlement agreement.””In parallel, we will continue to work towards submitting a written response to the European Commission’s Statement of Objections by the 28th of September deadline,” the company added.The Commission, the EU’s powerful executive arm, accuses Gazprom of significantly hindering competition in Central and Eastern European gas markets, where the company is by far the dominant supplier.Specifically, the EU accused Gazprom of breaching single market rules by forbidding the resale of its gas between EU countries, allowing the Russian giant to charge unfair prices.The countries involved in the EU probe are Lithuania, Estonia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Slovakia and Poland — all former Soviet-era satellites that have cast their future with the European Union, not Moscow.These member states are keeping a close eye on how Brussels handles the case, wary of the EU losing its resolve to fight Gazprom given the company’s close ties to the Russian government.
Japan must recognise Kuril islands for peace deal: Lavrov 8 hours agoRussian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov indicated Monday that there is no room for compromise with Japan over the disputed south Kuril islands, calling on Tokyo to „recognise” post-WWII „historic realities”.Related Stories
Lavrov met with Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida who is in Russia on a three-day visit to address the dispute over four islands Japan calls the Northern Territories seized by Soviet troops during World War II just after Japan surrendered.The two countries have never officially struck a peace treaty and have had bitter disputes over the islands in the Kuril chain for decades, hampering trade ties.Kishida indicated in his remarks, which were translated into Russian, that the two countries should „create a mutually acceptable solution to the territorial issue” of the islands Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and Habomai.However Lavrov appeared to reject the Japanese term for the islands itself. „Neither the ‘northern territories’ of Japan nor the ‘northern territories’ of Russia are the subject of our dialogue.””On our agenda is reaching the peace deal,” he said. „Moving forward on this issue is possible only after we see clearly Japan’s recognition of historic realities.”Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev inspects a port station in the Kitovyi village as he visits I …”The work is difficult and the difference in positions is vast,” Lavrov said of peace talks, which would nevertheless continue by deputy foreign ministers on October 8.Previously Tokyo and Moscow discussed the issue in January 2014, but the process was put on ice after Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in March that year.A visit last month by Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to one of the islands was met with strong protests by Tokyo, reportedly even throwing Kishida’s visit into doubt.Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Medvedev’s landing on the island of Iturup „conflicts with Japan’s position” and is „extremely regrettable.”This month Japan scrambled four jet fighters to intercept an aircraft, believed to be Russian, violating its airspace, also protesting this on official levels.The two ministers on Monday also discussed the long-delayed visit by President Vladimir Putin to Japan, but Lavrov said that while the Kremlin has accepted the invitation, the specific date is up to Tokyo.”It would be important to ensure that a new summit is filled with substance,” Lavrov added. „To pose preconditions for high-level meetings is hardly productive.”
UN agency: Iran’s role in nuclear probe meets standards By GEORGE JAHN10 hours ago VIENNA (AP) — The chief of the U.N. nuclear agency acknowledged Monday that samples used to determine whether Iran tried to develop a nuclear weapon were collected by the Iranians instead of agency experts, but insisted the probe stands up to strict agency standards.Related Stories
Such sampling of soil, air or dust from equipment is usually done by the International Atomic Energy Agency’s own experts. But IAEA chief Yukiya Amano confirmed that Iranians carried out that part of the probe at Parchin, where the agency suspects that explosive triggers for nuclear weapons might have been tested in the past.Diplomats say Iran insisted on the compromise as a condition for any probe of Parchin.Deputy IAEA Director General Tero Varjoranta said that there have been more than 40 instances of letting a country being inspected use their own nationals to do the sampling and that the process is only a small part of a rigid regimen established by the agency to make sure there is no cheating.He said the criteria at Parchin included: invasive monitoring by video and still cameras while the sampling took place; GPS tracking of the sampling process; IAEA agreement on where the samples were to be taken; review by unspecified peers of the inspection process; risk assessment and strict observance to make sure that procedures were followed step by step.”We feel fully confident that the process and the result so far are fully in line with our safeguards practices,” he said, standing next to Amano at a Vienna news conference.Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Yukiya Amano listens to head of Ir …Former IAEA deputy director general Olli Heinonen has described Iran as a particularly sensitive case however, saying he knows of no other case where a country under investigation for possibly trying to make nuclear weapons was permitted to use its own personnel to collect environmental samples as part of the investigation.The Iran arrangement was first revealed in a confidential draft agreement between the sides seen last month by The Associated Press.Iran’s atomic energy agency spokesman, Behrouz Kalmandi, said IAEA experts were not physically present during the sampling. But Amano said the procedure meets strict agency criteria that ensure „the integrity of the sampling process and the authenticity of the samples.”Amano spoke a day after he was taken on what Iranian media described as a ceremonial tour of the military site. He told reporters in Vienna that he was able to enter a building that the agency had been observing via satellite and saw signs of „recent renovation work.”He appeared to be referring to the building where the agency suspects that weapons experiments were conducted in the past. The agency has frequently said that subsequent renovation work at and near the building could hamper the IAEA probe, a position Amano repeated on Monday.Head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi, right, talks with Director General o …Amano’s one-day visit to Iran is part of an assessment due in December that will feed into the nuclear deal reached in July between Tehran and six world powers and will help to determine whether sanctions will be lifted.Iran denies it has ever sought nuclear weapons, and insists Parchin is a conventional military site. Tehran has refused to allow inspections of its military sites as part of the nuclear deal, saying it fears foreign espionage.White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the Parchin inspection and authentication „disproves the claims of our critics,” who said Iran would be conducting self-inspections.Earnest said that as time goes forward, there will be „many opportunities” to show that the warnings of those who opposed the deal „are eventually disproven based on the way the agreement is implemented.”But some Republican congressional opponents of the July 14 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers seized on the Parchin inspection as backing their concerns.Congressmen Mike Pompeo of Kansas, Peter Roskam of Illinois and Lee Zeldin of New York expressed their „grave concern” over what they called Iran’s right to „self-inspect. They urged that nuclear-related sanctions be kept in place, at least for now.But critical legislators have been weakened since the congressional review period of the nuclear deal ended last week. Democrats then blocked Republican efforts to get a resolution disapproving of the Iran deal to President Barack Obama’s desk.Western nations have long suspected Iran’s nuclear program has a secret military dimension. Iran insists the program is entirely devoted to peaceful purposes like power generation and cancer treatment.Under the July agreement, Iran would curb its nuclear activities and submit to new inspections in return for billions of dollars in sanctions relief.A special Iranian parliamentary committee is reviewing the deal to prepare a report for lawmakers. Late Sunday, a member of the committee, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, said he expected parliament would approve the deal._Associated Press Writers Deb Riechmann Nancy Benac and Donna Cassata contributed from Washington.
Romania’s ruling party backs PM at executive meeting: sources 17 hours agoOutgoing U.S. Secretary of Defense Check Hagel awaits the Prime Minister of Romania, Victor Ponta, (not …BUCHAREST (Reuters) – Romania’s ruling Social Democrat party (PSD) threw its backing behind Prime Minister Victor Ponta at a meeting of its executive committee on Monday, two sources who attended the meeting told Reuters.Ponta faces trial after being indicted on charges of forgery, money-laundering and being an accessory to tax evasion last week. But so far he has the backing of his party and its allies to stay in office.”The political decision of the PSD was that we back this government,” Liviu Dragnea, the interim head of the Social Democrats, said after the meeting.(Reporting by Radu-Sorin Marinas; Editing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Angus MacSwan)
Pope prays for Cuban reconciliation on eve of U.S. visit By Philip Pullella and Diego Ore4 hours agoView galleryPope Francis waves in Holguin, Cuba, September 21, 2015. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares By Philip Pullella and Diego Ore Related Stories
SANTIAGO DE CUBA, Cuba (Reuters) – Pope Francis prayed for reconciliation among Cubans at home and around the world on Monday on the eve of his landmark trip to the United States, where he is expected to further encourage the historic rapprochement between two former foes.The pope ended his last full day in Cuba at its holiest sanctuary, the shrine of the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre outside Santiago, the island’s second-largest city.”Mother of Reconciliation, reunite your people dispersed around the world,” said the prayer he read.”Make the Cuban nation a home of brothers and sisters so that this people open wide their minds, their hearts and their lives to Christ …,” it said.An estimated 2 million Cubans have left the island since the 1959 revolution with some 1.3 million currently living abroad, most of them in the United States, where many exiles remain bitterly estranged from their homeland.Pope Francis is greeted by Cuba’s President Raul Castro as he arrives to lead a mass for Catholi …The sanctuary where the pope spoke holds the small wooden effigy of the Madonna and Child. According to tradition, the statue was found at sea – miraculously dry – in the early 1600s by three salt-gatherers and holds deep significance for Cubans.The devotion goes beyond Catholics. For practitioners of Santeria, which came to Cuba with the slave trade, the small dark-skinned image represents Ochun: a maternal, sensual deity of love, femininity and water, associated with the color yellow.The prayer took on added significance because the pope read it the night before he travels to the United States, which resumed diplomatic ties with the Communist island in July following a Vatican mediation that ended more than half a century of antagonism.The pope looked tired at the end of a long day that included three cities, appearing to have a pain in one of his legs as he tried to kneel. He suffers from sciatica.Earlier on Monday Francis, who has made going to the peripheries of countries a hallmark of his papacy, became the first pontiff to visit the eastern provincial city of Holguin, capital of the region where the Castro brothers and leaders of Cuba, Fidel and Raul, grew up.Pope Francis leads a mass for Catholic faithful in the city of Holguin, Cuba, September 21, 2015. R …There he celebrated Mass with tens of thousands of people in sweltering heat.Monday was a special day for Francis, 78, because it was on that day in 1953 when the Argentine pope said he first felt a calling from God.The then 17-year-old Jorge Mario Bergoglio was heading to meet friends for a picnic marking the start of spring in the southern hemisphere when he felt an urge to enter a church he was passing in Buenos Aires.It was there that he felt a strange pull. „I can’t say what is was but it changed my life,” he told one biographer.DETENTIONS OF DISSIDENTSPope Francis waves to the crowd in Holguin, Cuba, September 21, 2015. REUTERS/Enrique De La OsaAs has happened since Francis began his visit on Saturday, security agents detained several dissidents. Three were briefly held in Holguin and five in Santiago, activists said.The Vatican has not yet commented on the detentions.A Cuban human rights group said 50 to 60 government opponents had been arrested in total and several dozen more blocked in their homes by state security agents.Since his arrival the pope has not made any overt political statements but has used his homilies to send messages laced in spirituality about the need for change in the one-party Communist country.He has urged Cubans to have the courage to think out of the box and to be tolerant of other people’s ideas. At Monday’s Mass in Holguin, he urged his listeners „not to be satisfied with appearances or with what is politically correct.”The gentler approach, a contrast to the tack taken by his two immediate predecessors when they visited, seems to be dictated by a desire to quietly encourage Cubans at a time when the country is at a delicate crossroads following the resumption of ties with the United States and greater space for the Church.The government of President Raul Castro, who attended the Holguin Mass, had hoped the 78-year-old Francis would explicitly condemn the still-intact U.S. economic embargo against Cuba before leaving on Tuesday for Washington.He has not done so yet but on arrival on Saturday, he did urge the old Cold War foes to deepen their detente after this year’s restoration of relations.(Additional reporting by Jaime Hamre in Holguin; Andrew Cawthorne, Nelson Acosta and Daniel Trotta in Havana; Editing by Daniel Trotta, Andrew Cawthorne and Lisa Shumaker)
HRW accuses Egypt of ‘mass home demolitions’ in Sinai 42 minutes ago Cairo (AFP) – Human Rights Watch on Tuesday accused Egypt’s military of having „violated international law” through mass home demolitions and evictions over the past two years along its border with Gaza.Related Stories
Egypt’s army in October created a wide buffer zone in the border town of Rafah in the north of the Sinai peninsula, where it says tunnels have allowed militants and weapons in from the Palestinian enclave.”The large-scale destruction of at least 3,255 buildings in Rafah to counter the threat of smuggling tunnels was likely disproportionate and did not meet Egypt’s obligations under international human rights law or the laws of war,” HRW said.Since July 2013, „the military has arbitrarily razed thousands of homes in a once-populated buffer zone on the border with the Gaza Strip, destroying entire neighbourhoods and hundreds of hectares (acres) of farmland,” the New York-based rights watchdog said.Egypt has stepped up its battle against jihadists — including Egypt’s branch of the Islamic State group Sinai Province — since then army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted elected Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.Militants in the Sinai have killed scores of policemen and soldiers since Morsi’s overthrow, vowing revenge against a crackdown on his supporters that has killed more than 1,400 people and jailed thousands.An Egyptian armored vehicle patrols the area on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border of the souther …”Destroying homes, neighbourhoods, and livelihoods is a textbook example of how to lose a counterinsurgency campaign,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW head for the Middle East and North Africa.The Egyptian government has failed to provide adequately for about 3,200 families during and after their eviction from their homes, HRW said.”The Egyptian authorities provided residents with little or no warning of the evictions, no temporary housing, mostly inadequate compensation for their destroyed homes,” read the report.When it started work on the buffer zone in October, Egypt said those whose homes were demolished would receive compensation.Egypt’s official plan for the buffer zone calls for clearing about 79 square kilometres (30 sq miles) on the Gaza border, including all of Rafah, a town of about 78,000 people, HRW said.Smoke billows from an explosion in Egypt’s northern Sinai, as seen from the Rafah border of the …The rights group compiled its 84-page report from interviews with 11 evicted families, journalists and activists in Sinai, and satellite images of the buffer zone between March 2013 and August 2015.”Though Egyptian military officials — and occasionally their Israeli counterparts — have alleged that armed groups in the Sinai use the tunnels to receive weapons and logistical support from Gaza, they have not provided proof,” it said.Egypt in 1979 became the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel.- Training from US army -„The Egyptian army has failed to explain why it cannot use… non-destructive means for detecting and neutralising tunnels,” it said, adding that its troops have reportedly received training for this from the US army since 2008.”The United States and other Western nations that arm al-Sisi’s government look the other way when his forces abuse citizens under the dubious logic that he is aiding the fight against the Islamic State,” Whitson said.”But al-Sisi’s reckless counterinsurgency strategy serves mostly to turn his own citizens against their government,” she said.Amnesty International in November condemned Egypt’s demolition of hundreds of homes and called for a halt to its „unlawful evictions” of residents to create the buffer zone.
Bickering in the Balkans: Officials clash over migrants By DUSAN STOJANOVIC1 hour ago BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — The war of words over Europe’s migrant crisis is turning vicious, with officials in the bickering Balkans trading blame and accusations of lying, while also disparaging each other’s actions as „pathetic” and a „disgrace.”The plight over how to deal with thousands of asylum seekers is reviving old differences among Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia and Slovenia dating back to the 1990s breakup of Yugoslavia. It’s also creating some new tensions.While the 28-nation European Union remains deeply divided over how to share the burden of relocating the refugees and is convening a series of meetings this week to seek a resolution, the finger-pointing turned especially nasty in the Balkans.Hungary’s decision Sept. 15 to close its border with Serbia has diverted the waves of people from the Middle East, Africa and Asia to Croatia.At first, Croatia welcomed them, thinking they would simply go to Slovenia and continue on to Austria and Germany. But Slovenia shut its border, and Croatia quickly found itself overwhelmed with about 30,000 people in a matter of days.Croatia then started putting the asylum seekers on trains and buses, even as their furious leaders argued that they had been let down by their neighbors.A woman looks through the window of a train she boarded with other migrants and refugees, close to C …Even though Croatia set up a migrant reception center Monday in the eastern village of Opatovac to try to bring order to the unrelenting chaos and misery, it could hardly undo the damage.And the high-level griping has strained relations.— Serbia denounced Hungary for using tear gas against the migrants on the border, with canisters landing on Serbian territory. It also protested Croatia’s closing of most of its border crossings, threatening legal action over the blocking of truck traffic.— Hungary blamed Serbia for failing to stop the migrants from throwing stones at its border police and accused Croatia of jeopardizing its sovereignty by sending thousands of migrants to Hungary. It also blamed Greece for failing to stop the influx.— Slovenia expressed anger that Croatia is busing people to its frontier.Refugees line up to cross the border from Croatia to the Slovenian village Rigonce at the border sta …This led to undiplomatic exchanges among the European Union neighbors.When Croatia said it and Hungary had agreed to create a corridor for the migrants, the Hungarian Foreign Ministry called that a „pack of lies.” Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto called the Croatian prime minister’s handing of the crisis „pathetic.”Croatian, Serbian and Romanian officials compared Hungary’s tough policies, including its new razor-coil fence, to the practices of Budapest’s Nazi-backed World War II regime.”Hungary’s attitude is not European and is a disgrace for Europe,” Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta said. „To build fences between two European Union members, Hungary and Romania, is an unheard-of thing and has nothing to do with the European spirit.”Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Constantinos Koutras responded to Hungary’s criticism with a sharp rejoinder to Budapest.