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TBR News June 23, 2018

Jun 23 2018

The Voice of the White House 

Washington, D.C. June 23, 2018: There were 56.5 million Hispanics in the United States in 2015, accounting for 17.6% of the total U.S. population. The Mexican population of the United States is projected to grow to 107 million by 2065.

The share of the U.S. population that is Hispanic has been steadily rising over the past half century. In 2015, Hispanics made up 17.6% of the total U.S. population, up from 3.5% in 1960, the origins of the nation’s Hispanic population have diversified as growing numbers of immigrants from other Latin American nations and Puerto Rico settled in the U.S.

For example, between 1930 and 1980, Hispanics from places other than Mexico nearly doubled their representation among U.S. Hispanics, from 22.4% to 40.6%. But with the arrival of large numbers of Mexican immigrants in the 1980s and 1990s, the Mexican share among Hispanics grew, rising to a recent peak of 65.7%.

California has the largest poplation of Mexicans, 14,013,719. California is home to almost 25% of the country’s undocumented population, making up 6% of California’s residents overall, followed by Texas where 31.14%,(8.5 million) are Mexican, Florida has 4,223,806 Mexicans, Illinois 2,153,000, Arizona,1,895,149, Colorado,  1,136,000 Georgia, 923,000,North Carolina, 890,000, and Washington, 858,000 Mexicans.

Given the fact that President Trump is equal in his strong dislike for both Black and Latinos and his recent vicious treatment of Mexican immigrants in their legal attempts to immigrate to the United States, the sheer number of Mexicans now resident in the United States ought to give him, and his far-right Republican Congressional supporters serious pause in their denial of entrance attempts.

If the Mexican population of the United States were to organize, like the recent organizing of the black population of Alabma in opposition to the fanatical Judge Moore, the results in the November elections could well prove to be a stunning disaster to both Trump and the Republicans.

Numbers certainly count but Trump is obviously unaware of the potential danger, both to him and his right-wing radical supporters,”

The Table of Contents

  • U.S. ambassador: I want U.S. officials to stop misusing the Bible.
  • Two Boys Sue the U.S. Government for Separating Them From Their Fathers
  • How family separations caused Trump’s first retreat – and deepened his bunker mentality
  • Dear Europe, if you want to stop Trump, sanction his companies
  • Trump doing business with Russia
  • American occupation has been great for Afghanistan’s opium trade
  • The New Christian Manifesto
  • Trump threatens 20 percent tariff on European Union cars
  • Assad defies United States, presses assault in southwest Syria

U.S. ambassador: I want U.S. officials to stop misusing the Bible.

June 22, 2018

by Miguel H. Diaz


As the former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See – and a migrant who once also faced the fear of being separated from my family – I have to speak out: the way U.S. officials have used the Bible to justify inhumane immigration policies is antithetical to America and its faith traditions.

Like any religious text, the Bible can be misused as a tool of oppression instead of serving as a revelatory text of human liberation. When Attorney General Jeff Sessions told law enforcement officers that the apostle Paul had commanded in Romans 13 “to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order,” he misused the Scripture to justify the inhumane immigration policy of separating children from their families at the border.

Just because President Donald Trump signed an order ending those separations doesn’t mean the misery and maltreatment of those migrants will end. Whatever happens next, it doesn’t alter the fact that at least 2,300 undocumented children were taken from their parents in violation of internationally-agreed human rights conventions.

I was the first Latino ambassador assigned to the Vatican, but I am also a Cuban-American, the child of Cuban exiles. I entered this country legally in 1974, and upon crossing this border, learned that children like me could dream of becoming permanent residents and citizens of the United States. I could attend school and live free from the fear of deportation for myself or for any member of my family.

The vivid images and sounds of the crying children who, before Trump signed his executive order Thursday, were torn away from their parents at the border brought back these childhood memories and the trauma surrounding my departure from the island of Cuba. I still recall the fears I had as a child of eight when I heard that I might be sent alone ahead of my parents to the United States via plane, via boat, via a floating raft, or perhaps even unaccompanied as part of some covert program like Operation Peter Pan.

In the end, I traveled to the United States with my parents via Spain, but upon arriving in Miami I was still wracked with many of the same fears these children experience today since I did not speak the language. I cannot imagine navigating this experience without my parents to comfort me. Like my parents, the caregivers of the children separated at the border risked everything to cross into the United States. As I recall my own experience as an exile, and the love I have for my own children, it’s troubling for me to think about what these kids held in U.S. detention centers must be feeling, exhausted after making a dangerous journey, and now apart from their families.

When I hear leaders in Washington, including the president and his cabinet, maligning desperate families who come to the United States as criminals and even “animals,” I am reminded that my parents too were once desperate and did everything in their power to bring me to the United States. And when I hear our leaders falsely judging parents who in desperation send their kids unaccompanied to the United States, I am reminded of the 14,000 four to 16-year-olds who entered America from Cuba in “Peter Pan,” still the largest recorded influx of unaccompanied minors the United States has ever seen.

We now stand at a crucial point in U.S. history and we need to be ready to respond as this crisis continues. In the Gospel of Mark, we read the words “Let the children come to me.” We must let the accompanied children come back to their parents and adequately care for those unaccompanied.

In his book, “The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid a Clash of Civilizations,” Rabbi Jonathan Sacks points out that “the Hebrew Bible in one verse commands, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ but in no fewer than 36 places commands us to ‘love the stranger.’” Religious leaders must be ready to speak out when migrants are treated badly. Pope Francis has done so consistently, from his first trip outside of Rome – when he spoke eloquently on Lampedusa Island of the need to embrace a culture of caregiving and to remember the interfaith “Common Word” of loving our neighbors – to his recent criticism of the Trump administration’s migration policy.

We must all refuse to allow religion and religious texts to be used as dangerous tools to dehumanize our neighbors; they should always be powerful allies in service to our common humanity.

American democracy cannot survive and thrive unless we resist the temptation to demonize our fellow human beings. These undocumented neighbors are not pests. They’re vulnerable strangers who have every right to be treated with equal dignity, care, justice, and respect. They have the right to seek asylum from the horrors they face in their homelands; we have a moral duty to alleviate that suffering.

On a political level, we must lobby lawmakers to approve the appointments only of those committed to justice for displaced persons or families. For now, that includes speaking out against the confirmation of Ronald Mortensen, the administration’s controversial nominee for the post of assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration. (Two senators, Arizona Republican John McCain and Delaware Democrat Chris Coons have already urged the withdrawal of Mortensen’s nomination, saying they were “deeply concerned about the possibility of a virulent opponent of immigration serving as the United States’ senior diplomat for migration and refugee policies.”)

Americans must also create immigration policies that properly protect the young “Dreamers,” brought here to the United States as children, and address the millions of other undocumented people, including other unaccompanied children held in detention centers, with empathy, justice, and love.

The nation’s soul demands that we do better than simply end the separation of families. Will America rise to the challenge?

About the Author

Miguel H. Díaz served as U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See 2009-2012 and is currently the John Courtney Murray University Chair in Public Service at Loyola University Chicago. @profmigueldiaz


Two Boys Sue the U.S. Government for Separating Them From Their Fathers

June 22 2018

by Ryan Devereaux

The Intercept

Inside the Heartland International Children’s Rescue Center in Chicago, Illinois, two young boys sit and wait. One is 15 years old. The other is 9. Their fathers are more than a thousand miles away, at two for-profit detention centers on the border. The two families came from Brazil, seeking asylum in the U.S. Instead, they were locked up. It’s been nearly a month since the four were separated. Only one of the boys has been able to speak to his father and even then, the conversation was brief.

On Wednesday, as President Donald Trump prepared to sign an executive order with potentially sweeping implications for immigrant detention, the boys became the latest plaintiffs to challenge the administration’s family separation practices. Their complaints, filed in Chicago, appeal to the same critical federal consent decree, known as the Flores settlement, that the president is now seeking to circumvent.

But unlike the order Trump ultimately signed, which was framed around a false premise that the Flores settlement requires families to be separated at the border, the boys’ complaint points to what the agreement actually says: that the U.S. government not engage in the prolonged and unnecessary detention of children.

The lawsuit, filed by the Aldea — People’s Justice Center and the Law Office of Amy Maldonado, reflects a narrative that has become common in recent weeks, as the implications of Trump’s “zero tolerance doctrine” evolved into a national scandal. The families came from a Latin American nation where the security situation is dire and sought refuge in the U.S., only to find themselves in a newly terrifying situation: separated by a government with no system in place to reunite the parents and kids that it is systematically tearing apart.

The boys, whose ordeal was first reported today by the Associated Press, are identified in their complaints by their initials. The 15-year-old is identified as W.S.R. and the 9-year-old is identified as C.D.A. According to their complaints, the boys, along with their fathers, came to the U.S. to seek asylum. Their individual experiences were distinct, though both families claim to have been targeted by organized crime. They crossed into the U.S. in late May, in New Mexico, more than a month after “zero tolerance” order went into effect.

In the case of 9-year-old C.D.A., the complaint claims that the father and the son attempted to enter the U.S. at a port of entry, as the administration has advised asylum-seekers to do, but were told it was “closed.” And so the pair crossed the border between ports. W.S.R. and his father did the same. They were promptly arrested by U.S. Border Patrol agents and, lawyers for the families say, expressed their desire to seek asylum.

It’s a pattern that Bridget Cambria, one of the attorneys for the two families, says is occurring with increasing regularity on the border. “Most of the people that we’ve heard from, they’ve all tried to present at a port of entry and they’re denied entry,” Cambria told The Intercept. “So that’s why they’re apprehended, primarily, because they’re seeking out a border officer to ask for protection.”

While the prevalence of that particular pattern could not be confirmed, The Intercept and several other news and legal advocacy organizations have documented numerous instances of border agents turning away asylum-seekers at ports of entry across the border, making it all but impossible for them to assert their right in the one manner deemed appropriate by the Trump administration.

The fathers were arrested, charged, and ultimately prosecuted for entering the country without inspection, a federal misdemeanor. The families spent two sleepless nights in a Border Patrol holding facility. One night, a U.S. official approached C.D.A., the 9-year-old, and his father. According to the boy’s complaint, the official told the father that the pair needed to be separated for a “process,” assuring him that it would only last three to five days, and then they would be reunited after. The reunification never happened. Karen Hoffmann, also an attorney working on the families’ case, says W.S.R. and his father were similarly separated. Hoffman said the boys were in tears and their fathers assured them, “I’ll see you soon. I promise I won’t let you be alone.”

“Basically, the U.S. government made liars out of them because it’s been almost a month,” Hoffmann told The Intercept. “They haven’t seen them. In one case, they still haven’t spoken.”

As sources working on family separation cases recently told The Intercept, and as U.S. officials confirmed Wednesday, the U.S. government has no dedicated system in place to reunite the thousands of families it has separated across the border. In both C.D.A.’s and W.S.R.’s cases, their complaints state that their fathers were given no information about their sons’ whereabouts following their separation. The boys were both shipped to Chicago, while the fathers entered U.S. Marshal custody. As of Wednesday’s filings, C.D.A.’s father still did not know the name of the facility where his elementary school-age son was being kept.

According to W.S.R.’s complaint, it took his father three weeks to obtain the hotline number the government is providing to parents whose children it has taken. In their one and only conversation since being separated, W.S.R.’s father expressed that his son is “extremely unhappy and upset and is desperate to be reunited with his father.”  According to C.D.A.’s complaint, his father obtained the government’s hotline number as well, which is managed by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the Health and Human Services department responsible for the custody of minors in the immigration system.

The father tried calling the number “repeatedly,” the complaint states. “He says they took his information and told him they would call him back,” it goes on to say. “He has not managed to find out if he can receive calls at the detention center where he is.”

The fathers of the two boys are currently being held in detention centers in New Mexico and Texas, where they are awaiting interviews with asylum officers to make their claims.

Lawyers for the families argue that the ongoing detention of the two boys is a clear-cut violation of the Flores settlement, a 1997 federal consent decree that limits the amount of time the government can keep a child in detention and stipulates a series of protections for kids in U.S. custody.

In 2014, the Obama administration responded to an increase in Central American women and children showing up to the border by dramatically expanding the use of family detention. The courts ultimately intervened, ruling that the government, in general, could not hold unaccompanied children or children apprehended with a family member in detention for more than 20 days. Instead, families were to be released on parole as their immigration cases proceeded through the courts.

Far right, anti-immigrant hawks in and around the Trump administration, such as Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House adviser Steven Miller, have long hated the settlement, casting it as a “loophole” routinely exploited by women and kids. The administration has insisted that the only way forward is through detention, arguing that if families are released into the community, they will simply disappear.

It’s a false dilemma. As the Women’s Refugee Commission, which routinely deals with families in the immigration system, recently noted, “the government can also place families into alternative to detention (ATD) programs. Unfortunately, the government eliminated one of its most promising and cost-effective ATD programs – the Family Case Management Program (FCMP) – last year, despite the fact that it is far more appropriate for families seeking asylum than either detention or separation.”

Under Flores, the attorneys say, both of the Brazilian boys have the right to challenge the government’s decision to place them with ORR. In both cases, the complaints contend, the boys were separated “without any consideration given to the irreparable psychological and physical damage that separation causes to children and without reason. There were, at no time, any assertions of abuse, neglect, or parental unfitness, nor were any hearings or process conducted of any kind by the government prior to the decision to separate.”

In addition to allegedly trespassing against the Fifth Amendment, “which does not and cannot permit the United States government to forcibly separate an asylum-seeking family, a father from a son, without justification or hearing,” the complaints cite several alleged violations the Flores settlement. Under Flores, the complaints note, government agencies involved in the detention of children are “to treat all minors in its custody with dignity, respect and special concern for their particular vulnerability as minors.” This includes placing children “in the least restrictive setting appropriate to the minor’s age and special needs.” The complaint argues that “a separated child is not placed in the least restrictive setting appropriate when the child is apprehended with their parent.”

The Flores settlement provides several protections for children in detention. In addition to requiring that children not be held for more than 20 days, the settlement requires that children be provided clean drinking water, food, and medical care. It also requires “contact with family members who were arrested with the minor.” In the case of the boys from Brazil, their attorneys argue that the government has failed to meet this requirement. The complaints go on to note that, under Flores, the government’s first preference should always be to reunite a child with their parent whenever possible. Rather than abiding by the Flores settlement and seeking the least restrictive solution to the presence of these two asylum-seeking families in the U.S., the complaints argue that the government has embraced the most punishing course of action possible.

In his executive order Wednesday, Trump called on Sessions to file a request with U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to modify Flores “in a manner that would permit the Secretary, under present resource constraints, to detain alien families together throughout the pendency of criminal proceedings for improper entry or any removal or other immigration proceedings.” On Thursday, the motion was filed. The move is a clear attempt on the part of the administration to do away with the Flores agreement, thus allowing the government to detain immigrant families as long as it needs to adjudicate their immigration cases. With the immigration court backlog being what it is, that could mean that asylum-seekers with viable cases could spend months or years behind bars.

Though it ostensibly called for an end to family separations as they have played out in recent weeks, there were mixed reports describing the current status of the administration’s “zero tolerance” campaign in the wake of Trump’s executive order Thursday. But with thousands of families already separated, and children scattered across the country, the question of how reunification will proceed remains urgent. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a class-action lawsuit calling on the government to reunite parents held in immigration detention with their children.

In a phone call with reporters on Thursday, Lee Gelernt, the veteran attorney leading the ACLU’s suit, said his organization doubts that Flores can be overturned by Congress or the courts. “The reason is because it’s based on the Constitution,” Gelernt said. “The due process clause of the Constitution required this settlement.” The ACLU is currently seeking a nationwide preliminary injunction to immediately reunify the children who have been separated from their parents. The story of the second plaintiff in the ACLU’s suit, also a Brazilian, is remarkably similar to the experiences of C.D.A., W.S.R., and their fathers. The only difference, Cambria, the attorney, said, is that after the ACLU sued, the families were reunited.

The Trump administration has repeatedly insisted that the Flores settlement requires the separation of children from their parents, and that it needs to be torn up so that the government does not have to separate families. The settlement requires no such thing. “We’re going to have an interesting talk when we go to court about who Flores actually protects, which is the child and their interests,” Cambria said. “They don’t want to overturn Flores because they care about keeping children with their parents. They want to overturn Flores because then it will contribute to a mass increase in incarceration of families and children, and they will profit off of them.”

“The point of this is not to bring families together,” she added. “The point of it is to eliminate the protections and the rights that children have in detention. And it’s disgusting.”


How family separations caused Trump’s first retreat – and deepened his bunker mentality

Besieged by negative press over pictures of frightened children, the president backed off. But his allies remain and the party is still his to command

June 23, 2018

by David Smith in Washington

The Guardian

Portraits of the slave-owning presidents Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson loomed over the Resolute desk, daylight reflecting off its polished surface. Donald Trump sat in a burgundy leather chair, flanked by two of his most loyal lieutenants. Mike Pence wore a grey suit and red tie, Kirstjen Nielsen was dressed in deep blue. Press secretary Sarah Sanders rested her hand on one of two cream sofas at the centre of the Oval Office. Their expressions were grave, the atmosphere sombre.

Like the dogged defenders of a teetering regime, Trump’s inner circle had been forced to a final redoubt. The president spoke for a few minutes before bringing himself to pick up a pen and sign the terms of surrender. The man who once declared he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone without losing any votes had finally met his match: the inviolable innocence of children.

Ostensibly, Trump’s executive order ended the separation of children from their parents at the Mexican border, after days of cascading outrage in America and around the world.

“He had to sign it for one simple reason,” said Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee. “The imagery was so bad that he could no longer justify the policy. You had people out there making complete asses of themselves in front of cameras, from the attorney general to the secretary of homeland security, justifying this inhumanity and blaming the migrants who are coming here seeking asylum.”

It was the week that Trump discovered there are still moral lines that cannot be crossed. America recoiled in disgust at the sights and sounds of children in fenced cages, lying on mats under foil sheets, sobbing and wailing for parents whose whereabouts were unknown. Iris Eufragio-Mancia, an undocumented immigrant from Honduras separated from her son on his sixth birthday, told NBC News: “Those cells are full of tears.” Condemnation came from the Pope, the United Nations and observers who drew parallels with concentration camps.

But what distinguished this from the regular drumbeat of Trump panics was that even some of his most devout supporters had to admit to feeling queasy. His wife went public with concerns; his eldest daughter reportedly lobbied behind the scenes. Otherwise oleaginous Republicans scented danger in the midterm elections, though they danced around criticism of Trump himself. And when a deluge of TV coverage portrayed his government as callous and cruel, the master of the medium knew the game was up.

Steele added: “There’s no doubt it absolutely was the critical piece that changed this around for the president because you cannot argue with the image of a three-year-old child standing at her mother’s side crying as she’s being handcuffed and taken from her no matter how much you try, no matter how much you try to rally your base around it. Some of the polling started to show even members of his base thought, ‘Well that that may be a little bit too far – maybe.’”

There were family separations before Trump but officials usually erred on the side of keeping parents and their children together. The justice department’s announcement in April that all unlawful border crossings would be criminally prosecuted changed that. Now people without documents were sent directly to detention centres and their children and babies put in separate facilities.

The hectic Trump news cycle guaranteed distractions for a while but after Democratic senator Jeff Merkley used Facebook to live-stream his attempt to enter a converted Walmart at the Texas border housing hundreds of children taken from their parents, the issue became inescapable. Official figures showed that more than 2,300 children were separated from their parents between 5 May and 9 June; a secret audio recording captured some crying for “mami” and “papa”.

America looked at itself in the mirror and did not like what it saw. All four living former first ladies spoke out. Church leaders raised their voices. Liberal cable news host Rachel Maddow broke down in tears during a live broadcast. Bruce Springsteen, performing on Broadway, told his audience: “We are seeing things right now on our American borders that are so shockingly and disgracefully inhumane and un-American that it is simply enraging.”

The White House fanned the flames. According to a count by the Washington Post, it changed its story on family separation 14 times before Trump signed the order. Some said the policy was a deterrent to families trying to enter the US; others claimed there was no policy but rather they were enforcing a law that past administrations neglected. Homeland security secretary Nielsen, flying back from New Orleans to face reporters in Washington, declared that “Congress alone can fix it”. It was an unwitting inversion of Trump’s infamous campaign promise: “I alone can fix it”.

One night, Nielsen went for dinner at a Mexican restaurant, prompting chants of “shame” and “end family separation” that forced her to leave with her tail between her legs. And in the week that Democratic senator Kamala Harris described “a human rights abuse being committed by the United States government”, that government announced it was quitting the UN human rights council.

Then there was First Lady Melania Trump, who flew to a children’s detention centre in Texas but upended her mission of compassion by wearing a Zara jacket bearing a slogan: “I really don’t care. Do U?” Her spokeswoman said there was no hidden message; her husband said there was a hidden message about the media.

Steele said: “It’s fucking 90 degrees here in Washington and Texas. I’m sorry, what do you think the response is going to be if you wear a coat like that going to the place you’re going in the midst of the controversy which your husband’s administration is embroiled in? How can you not think that people would say you’re basically flipping off this whole thing?”

‘I hate what we’ve become’

As ever, Trump set the tone. He sought to blame Democrats and referred to “illegal immigrants” who “infest” the country. On Friday 15 June he claimed he was powerless to intervene, telling reporters in the White House grounds: “You can’t do it through an executive order.” Five days later, he signed the executive order to do it, claiming: “I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated.”

At first glance it was a humbling defeat, his first acknowledged climbdown since he entered politics. Even Trump had to heed the concerns of family, friends, party and prominent cheerleaders including Anthony Scaramucci, former White House communications director, and Christian evangelical Franklin Graham. Republican senator Ted Cruz, seeking re-election in Texas in November, introduced emergency legislation to end the separations. Spencer Cox, lieutenant-governor of the red state of Utah, tweeted at 3.24am: “Can’t sleep tonight. I know I shouldn’t tweet. But I’m angry. And sad. I hate what we’ve become.”

The rumblings came just as Trump’s takeover of the Republican party was being compared to a personality cult, any dissenters banished to the political wilderness. The border policy, however, was seen as a potentially catastrophic vote loser, notably among suburban women, in the midterm elections and at a time when party leaders would prefer to focus on tax cuts and the economy.

Rich Galen, a Republican strategist and former press secretary to vice-president Dan Quayle, said: “Trump got to the point where even Republicans in the House or Senate openly disagreed with him, which they have not been willing to do on almost anything before this. The Republicans were getting blistered by their constituents and starting to sense they need to establish their own personalities in their districts. If I was a Democrat woman running against a Republican man, this is all I’d run [in TV commercials].”

The Republican rebellion should not be overstated, however. Cruz and others were careful to swerve past condemnation of Trump, who remains utterly dominant in the party. At a meeting with Republican members of the House and Senate, who are also wrestling with deportation protections for so-called Dreamers and funding for a border wall, Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee told Trump: “You may be able to do for immigration what Nixon did for China and Reagan did for the Soviet Union.”

Steele reflected: “I’m not going to give them brownie points for doing something that they should do without having to feel that they should get a pat on the back. There’s no applause for that because you’ve let so many other things go unaccounted for, uncommented on, you’ve turned your head the other way, looking in shame instead of standing straight up and going, ‘This is wrong.’ We are here because those leaders and significant numbers of our neighbours and friends have allowed us to be here. They want us to be here. This is the space we’re in. So now we have to deal with this.”

The sentiment was echoed by Neil Sroka, communications director for the progressive political action committee Democracy for America. “I don’t think they found their backbone as much as they found a level they could not withstand politically,” he said. “The last week showed they only care about the politics of the situation: it doesn’t matter how many brown lives they ruin as long as they advance Donald Trump’s agenda.

“It was a cold-blooded political decision, plain and simple. Otherwise it wouldn’t have taken six weeks for them to stop babies being ripped out of the arms of mothers. People who are saying it’s the moment the Republican party stood up to Donald Trump are measuring moral courage in centimetres.”

The executive order is, to critics, merely a tactical retreat that retains zero tolerance, keeps children detained together with their parents potentially indefinitely and includes caveats allowing the separation of families when there is insufficient detention space. It also does nothing to reunite those already separated.

Sroka said: “Something in Donald Trump’s reptilian brain couldn’t understand the morality but understood that using children as bargaining chips is politically toxic. The fallback position we’re in now is equally toxic. He went from the government kidnapping children to the Department of Defense setting up internment camps for families.”

‘Phony stories of sadness and grief’

Like the Access Hollywood tape in which Trump was caught boasting about groping women, this week’s political and moral crisis was revealing about who would be prepared to stay in his bunker and fight to the death. Vice-President Pence, attorney general Jeff Sessions, senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and former chief strategist Steve Bannon did not express a scintilla of doubt. On the ever-loyal Fox News channel, Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager, responded to a story about a 10-year-old girl with Down’s syndrome being taken away from her mother in South Texas by saying: “Womp womp.”

Steve Cortes, a CNN political commentator who serves on the Trump 2020 election advisory council, wrote in an email: “I think the president was deeply distressed by the images of children missing their parents. I also think we all need to realise that neither President Trump nor our law enforcement caused that very unfortunate circumstance; rather, these victim children were totally mistreated by their parents or guardians who chose freely to commit the serious crime of illegal trespass into our country with children in tow.”

This, it seems, remains Trump’s own view. Hours after signing the order, he resumed his harsh rhetoric and led chants of “Build the wall!” at a rally, as of old. On Friday he railed against “phony stories of sadness and grief” and paraded the families of people killed by undocumented immigrants, drawing a pointed comparison by saying: “They’re not separated for a day or two days. These are permanently separated, because they were killed by criminal illegal aliens.”

Despite this week’s chastening lesson, the president apparently still trusts his instincts that immigration will be a vote winner in the midterms. It has been the organising principle of his political career ever since he pushed the bogus “birther” theory that Barack Obama was not born in America and launched his election campaign, at Trump Tower in June 2015, by claiming Mexico was sending criminals and rapists across the border.

Trump’s grandfather was born in Germany; his mother was born in Britain; his wife was born in Slovenia. Gwenda Blair, author of The Trumps: Three Generations that Built an Empire, said: “The moment he got aligned with the birther thing and saw the reaction, that was it. It had so many dog whistles rolled into one. Not Christian, dark skinned, the capital O ‘other’: he’s been riding on the notion of us and them, winners and losers, a binary version of the world.

“Immigration is a code, a way of embodying the idea of ‘the other’ that you have to be afraid of.”

Dear Europe, if you want to stop Trump, sanction his companies

Trump can easily weather broad sanctions on the US economy. But sanctions targeting his own companies will sting in a way that he cannot ignore

June 22, 2018

by Keith Ellison

The Guardian

Donald Trump has opened the largest rift between the US and its European allies since George W Bush’s illegal invasion of Iraq. From the Paris accord, to the Iran nuclear deal, to pushing for the inclusion of Russia in a G8, the US president has demonstrated no regard for Europe’s security interests. Europe, in turn, has failed to understand how to deter Trump from sabotaging the transatlantic axis. Currently, Europe is considering sanctions and tariffs on US companies. It shouldn’t. To stop Trump and protect its interests, Europe should sanction Trump himself instead.

Since taking office, Trump has systematically undermined Europe while damaging the US national interest. Precisely because Washington’s European allies want to preserve the transatlantic relationship – unlike Trump – they have been hesitant to push back hard.

But in its caution, Europe has fallen for a false hope: the belief that Trump can be appeased, that he can be reasoned with and that he can be convinced to abandon his current path with logic. Essentially, Europe has failed to understand that Trump cares more about himself than his country. Like a dictator of a developing country, Trump is less concerned with the prosperity of American families or the country as a whole than with enriching himself and his family businesses.

Despite Europe’s commendable patience, its failure to understand what animates Trump has enabled him. For example, while Europe tried to salvage the Iran nuclear deal – an arms control agreement that made the world safer – Trump strung Europe along for months, misleading European partners that a compromise on the nuclear deal could be found when he had already made his decision months prior to kill the hard-fought agreement.

But while Europe has realized that it needs to meet pressure with pressure in order to salvage the transatlantic relationship, it is still focused on measures that are unlikely to succeed.

Counter-tariffs, clawback sanctions and other economic tools that Europe is considering are hardly sustainable, unlikely to force Trump to back down and will damage both the European Union and US economies. Perhaps more importantly, these economic measures will inflict hardship on millions of American workers who don’t support Trump’s agenda. Trump may even benefit from a rally-round-the-flag effect that often accompanies broad economic sanctions.

A more effective approach would be to target Trump’s wallet. There are countless examples of how Trump is blatantly using the presidency to enrich himself. His controversial tax reform will reportedly save him and his family hundreds of millions of dollars. His son-in-law’s family openly uses their connection to Trump as a selling point to entice investors in China. His state department has publicly promoted Trump-owned private clubs. Foreign embassies have concluded that if they want access to Trump they should stay at his hotel in Washington. Curiously, Ivanka Trump secured seven trademarks in China around the same time Trump eased fines on a major Chinese telecommunications company. Most recently, Trump directed the commerce department to resolve its issues with sanctioned Chinese telecommunications company ZTE just two days after China floated a $500m loan to developers working on a Trump project.

Like most dictators, Trump can easily weather broad sanctions on the US economy. But sanctions targeting his own companies and wealth will sting in a way that he cannot ignore.

And that is exactly what Europe should do: don’t sanction or impose tariffs on Minnesotan companies that share no responsibility for Trump’s policies. Sanction Trump’s own companies and bar them from the EU market. For example, the EU and member states could prohibit officials from staying or holding events at Trump properties, or block the use of European money in financing Trump business and development deals. Just moving ahead on the planned placement of windmills near his Scottish golf course might be more likely to get Trump’s attention than a tax on motorcycles.

Targeting Trump’s companies is a more moral strategy. Broad sanctions and tariffs have high cost to the US and the EU, but little cost to Trump. Targeting Trump’s companies has little cost to the EU and US economies, but a high cost to Trump. Moreover, it will deprive Trump of any rally-round-the-flag-effect that broad sanctions tend to generate. In fact, if he tries to escalate, Americans would see that Trump is risking the broader US economy just to protect his own wealth.

Many in Congress will welcome this move, as it will shine a light on how Trump’s failure to put his companies in a blind trust has put the United States in a vulnerable position. And if it helps save the Iran nuclear deal or the Paris Climate Accord, the next administration and future generation of Americans will be grateful to European leaders for their courage.

Congressman Keith Ellison represents the fifth district of Minnesota


Trump doing business with Russia

June 23, 2018

by Christian Jürs

Donald Trump has pursued business deals in Russia since 1987, and has sometimes traveled there to explore potential business opportunities. In 1996, Trump trademark applications were submitted for potential Russian real estate development deals. Mr.Trump’s partners and children have repeatedly visited Moscow, connecting with developers and government officials to explore joint venture opportunities. Mr.Trump was never able to successfully conclude any real estate deals in Russia. However, individual Russians have invested heavily in Trump properties, and following Mr.Trump’s bankruptcies in the 1990s he borrowed money from Russian sources. In 2008 his son Donald Trump Jr. said that Russia was an important source of money for the Trump businesses.

In 1996 Mr.Trump partnered with Liggett-Ducat, a small company, and planned to build an upscale residential development on a Liggett-Ducat property in Moscow. Trump commissioned New York architect Ted Liebman, who did the sketches.

In 1987 Mr.Trump visited Russia to investigate developing a hotel

In Russia, Mr.Trump promoted the proposal and acclaimed the Russian economic market. At a news conference reported by The Moscow Times, Mr.Trump said he hadn’t been “as impressed with the potential of a city as I have been with Moscow” in contrast to other cities had visited “all over the world.

By this time, Mr.Trump made known his desire to build in Moscow to government officials for almost ten years ranging from the Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev (they first met in Washington in 1987) to the military figure Alexander Lebed.

Moscow’s mayor, Yuri M. Luzhkov, showed Trump plans for a very large shopping mall to be located underground in the vicinity of the Kremlin. The mayor complimented Mr.Trump’s suggestion that this mall should have access to the Moscow Metro, and it was eventually connected to the Okhotny Ryad station. Although the 1996 residential development did not happen, Mr.Trump was by this time well known in Russia.

Between 2000–2010, Mr.Trump entered into a partnership with a development company headquartered in New York represented by a Russian immigrant, Felix Sater. During this period, they partnered for an assortment of deals that included building Trump towers internationally and Russia was included. For example, in 2005 Slater acted as an agent for building a Trump tower alongside Moscow River with letters of intent in hand and “square footage was being analyzed.”

In 2006, Mr.Trump’s children Donald Jr. and Ivanka stayed in the Hotel National, Moscow for several days, across from the Kremlin, to interview prospective partners, with the intention of formulating real estate development projects.

Sater had also traveled to Moscow with Mr. Trump, his wife Ivanka and son Donald Jr.

Mr. Trump was associated with Tevfik Arif, formerly a Soviet commerce official and founder of a development company called the Bayrock Group, of which Sater was also a partner.

Bayrock searched for deals in Russia while Trump Towers company were attempting to further expand in the United States. Mr. Sater said, “We looked at some very, very large properties in Russia,” on the scale of “…a large Vegas high-rise.”

In 2007, Bayrock organized a potential deal in Moscow between Trump International Hotel and Russian investors

During 2006–2008 Mr.Trump’s company applied for a number of trademarks in Russia with the goal of real estate developments. These trademark applications include: Trump, Trump Tower, Trump International Hotel and Tower, and Trump Home.

In 2008, Mr. Trump spoke at a Manhattan real estate conference, stating that he he really prefered Moscow over all cities in the world and that within 18 months he had been in Russia a half-dozen times.

Mr.Trump had received large and undisclosed payments over 10 years from Russians for hotel rooms, rounds of golf, or Trump-licensed products such as wine, ties, or mattresses, which would not have been identified as coming from Russian sources in the tax returns

American occupation has been great for Afghanistan’s opium trade

June 21, 2018

by Sal Rodriguez

Orange County Register

After over 16 years of war and military occupation, and $8.6 billion of U.S. counternarcotics, opium production has hit record levels in Afghanistan, according to John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

For context, when the U.S. first invaded Afghanistan, the country had just 7,606 hectares of opium poppy cultivation. By 2017, Afghanistan had 328,000 hectares of opium poppy cultivation. “To put it bluntly, these numbers spell failure and the outlook is not encouraging,” Sopko said.

The report lays out in plain language the failures of counternarcotics efforts.

“Our analysis reveals that no counternarcotics program led to lasting reductions in poppy cultivation or opium production. Eradication efforts had no lasting impact, and eradication was not consistently conducted in the same geographic locations as development assistance. Alternative development programs were often too short-term, failed to provide sustainable alternatives to poppy, and sometimes even contributed to poppy production,” found the report.

The report notes that more people were employed in poppy cultivation than in the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, with approximately 590,000 jobs in Afghanistan in existence due to poppy cultivation. And the impact of the trade on political institutions in Afghanistan is predictably negative.

“While opium production has brought significant economic benefits, its impact on the political economy of Afghanistan has been deeply corrosive,” notes the report. “Corruption associated with the opium economy undermines state legitimacy and public institutions, particularly in the security and justice sectors.”

With developments like this, it’s important to have politicians like Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, willing to speak out against the wasteful moneypit that is our ongoing military involvement in

American tax dollars and lives are being wasted in Afghanistan. What do we have to show for our efforts? Child sexual abuse by U.S.-funded Afghan military units. Rampant corruption and billions in waste. And on top of that a thriving opium trade.

American intervention in Afghanistan has been nothing but a fool’s errand. The sooner the American military withdraws, the better.


The New Christian Manifesto

June 23, 2016

by Christian Jürs

We recently obtained a round-robin letter concerning certain religious/political plannings that is worthy of disussion:

“To Our Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Greetings!

It is with glowing pride that we contemplate the growing control and spiritual influence of True Christians in establishing strict control of the American political and educational realms. America was founded in 1620 by Religious Dissenters, True Christians, who fled from secular persecutions in England. They set up a religious community in Plymouth Bay and flourished greatly. But in subsequent years, America drifted away from her True Christian origins and became a nest of Secularism. Americans have turned away from the One True God to worship Mammon and materialism! Self-indulgence has replaced self-discipline and the cell phone has replaced Our Lord Jesus Christ in daily importance! But rejoice in your hearts because the True Disciples of Christ have organized to save America from Secular Humanism and hedonism and we are now at the very gates of the True Kingdom of Heaven on earth! The True Disciples have begun their Sacred Mission by gaining virtual control over the Republican Party in almost every state in the Union, have elected a President of our One True Faith, have filled the halls of Congress with Representatives of both the people and Christ the Lord! We are well on our way to reestablish the True Christian nation, under God Almighty, that was founded in 1620.

The Politics of God

Now, with the advent of a True Christian as President of the United States, we Christians stand closer now to establishing a truly Christian-based government in this country since 1620!

By faith and determination, we have placed many of our people into the ranks of the Republican Party; have organized local elections to put our members on vital school boards where they can, and have, successfully supplanted the false Darwinism with the Divinely Inspired Biblical Creationism. We have elected members to serve in Congress who are sensitive to our needs and wishes but we need far more in order to establish a firm majority.

Since 2001 dozens of True Christians, by Presidential order have been placed in key positions within the Department of Health and Human Services, the Federal Drug Administration and on commissions and advisory committees where they have made serious progress. As one example of the growing power of the Lord in American politics, the Texas Republican Party Platform for 2002, called for rescinding United States membership in the United Nations and removing the United Nations from US soil. Pat Robertson, in his book, “The Millennium”, depicts the United Nations as a Satanic plot to take control of the world. And in the LaHaye “Left Behind” books, we can see that the United Nations is firmly in the hands of the anti-Christ!

Herewith we present our Watchwords and our Credo to you for your guide and inspiration.

1.Rule the world for God!

2.Give the impression that you are there to work for the Republican party, not push an ideology.

3.Hide your strength.

4.Don’t flaunt your Christianity.

Our Credo is:

Jesus Christ is Lord in all aspects of life, including civil government.

Jesus Christ is, therefore, the Ruler of Nations, and should be explicitly confessed as such in any constitutional documents. The civil ruler is to be a servant of God, he derives his authority from God and he is duty-bound to govern according to the expressed will of God.

The civil government of our nation, its laws, institutions, and practices must therefore be conformed to the principles of Biblical law as revealed in the Old and New Testaments.

In confronting Secular Humanists and Satanists, we must realize that it is vital to stress the following Proclaimed Truths:

  1. The unique divine inspiration of all the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments as originally given, so that they are infallible and uniquely authoritative and free from error of any sort, in all matters with which they deal, scientific and historical as well as moral and theological.
  2. Special creation of the existing space-time universe and all its basic systems and kinds of organisms in the six literal days of the creation week.
  3. The full historicity and perspicuity of the biblical record of primeval history, including the literal existence of Adam and Eve as the progenitors of all people, the literal fall and resultant divine curse of the creation, and worldwide cataclysmic deluge and the origin of nations and languages at the Tower of Babel.

Brother Pat Robertson said in 1992,

“We want…as soon as possible to see a majority of the Republican Party in the hands of pro-family Christians…”

Ralph Reed said in 2001,

“You’re no longer throwing rocks at the building; you’re in the building.”

Once dismissed as a small regional movement, Christian conservatives have become a staple of politics nearly everywhere. Christian conservatives now hold a majority of seats in 36% of all Republican Party state committees (or 18 of 50 states), plus large minorities in 81% of the rest, double their strength from a decade before.

The twin surges of Christians into GOP ranks in the early 1980s and early 1990s have begun to bear fruit, as naïve, idealistic recruits have transformed into highly proficient operatives and leaders, building organizations, winning leadership positions, fighting onto platform committees, and electing many of our own to public offices at all levels of American governance.

Christians need to take leadership positions. Since Republican Party officers control the membership and our legislative bodies, it is very important that mature Christians have a majority of leadership positions whenever possible, God willing.

One of our brilliantly successful tactics in gaining control of Republican organizations is to tie up the meetings for hours until people left. Then we appointed ourselves leaders and make key decisions. Once we took over the local leadership throughout our target State, we can then control the state party apparatus. Once we have a target state under Christian control, we can then use the same tactics in other states until we build a solid Christian foundation that can control any election, state or national.

The strategy of the coming Christian Based Republican Party is simple.

First, enact a permanent tax cut which will eliminate $6 trillion in revenue over the next 20 years. This will in effect starve the federal government so it will be unable to fund many liberal and essentially anti-Christian governmental functions instituted since the Communist-inspired New Deal.

Second, fill the liberal and secular federal judiciary with Christian advocates whose judicial philosophy will reverse the disastrous trends on civil rights, environmental protections, religious liberty, reproductive rights and privacy and so much more.

Third, mandate the teaching of Divine Creationism in all public and private schools and remove from all school curriculums the Secular Humanist false theories of Darwin and others.

Fourth, revise the Federal Constitution so that it better reflects Divine Will and strips away false secularism entirely.

A Constitution that conforms to Biblical Law will rely on the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament as its guiding source. Therefore, the Ten Commandments hold a special meaning. The New Christian lawmakers are going to pass legislation in various state legislatures that will mandate government posting of the Ten Commandments in all public buildings.

Rev. Joseph Morecraft, pastor of the Reconstructionist Chalcedon Presbyterian Church in Marietta, Georgia once stated his belief in the persecution of nonbelievers and those who are insufficiently orthodox is crystal clear. Reverend Morecraft describes democracy as “mob rule,” and states that the purpose of “civil government” is to “terrorize evil doers. . . to be an avenger!” and “To bring down the wrath of God to bear on all those who practice evil!”

“And how do you terrorize an evil doer?” he asks. “You enforce Biblical law!” The purpose of government is “to protect the church of Jesus Christ,” and, “Nobody has the right to worship on this planet any other God than Jehovah. And therefore the state does not have the responsibility to defend anybody’s pseudo-right to worship an idol!” “There is no such thing” as religious pluralism, he declared. Further, “There has never been such a condition in the history of mankind. There is no such place now. There never will be.”

“When God brings Noah through the flood to a new earth, He re-establishes the Dominion Mandate but now delegates to man the responsibility for governing other men in order to protect human life. He does this by instituting capital punishment – the backbone of civil government.” Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

Now let us begin with some realistic soul-searching. Let us define the purposes and directions of our ranks for, although we may see the same Enlightenment in different ways, in the end, we are all True Christians.”


Trump threatens 20 percent tariff on European Union cars

June 22, 2018

by David Shepardson


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to impose a 20 percent tariff on all European Union-assembled cars coming into the United States, a month after the administration launched an investigation into whether auto imports pose a national security threat.

“If these Tariffs and Barriers are not soon broken down and removed, we will be placing a 20% Tariff on all of their cars coming into the U.S. Build them here!” Trump wrote on Twitter Friday.

Autos stocks fell on the news. The European Autos Stocks Index fell sharply after Trump’s 20 percent tariff tweet and was last down 1.25 percent. Ford Motor Co shares went into the red and were down 0.5 percent, while General Motors Co shares were off 0.3 percent.

The U.S. Commerce Department is investigating whether imports of automobiles and auto parts pose a risk to national security. The deadline for completing the investigation is February, 2019, but Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Thursday said the department aims to wrap up the probe much earlier, by late July or August.

The Commerce Department plans to hold two days of public comments in July on its probe of auto imports.

Trump has repeatedly singled out German auto imports to the United States for criticism.

At a meeting with automakers at the White House on May 11, Trump told automakers he was planning to impose tariffs of 20 or 25 percent on some imported vehicles and sharply criticized Germany’s automotive trade surplus with the United States.

The United States currently imposes a 2.5 percent tariff on imported passenger cars from the European Union and a 25 percent tariff on imported pickup trucks. The EU imposes a 10 percent tariff on imported U.S. cars.

The tariff proposal has drawn sharp condemnation from Republican lawmakers and business groups. A group representing major U.S. and foreign automakers has said it was “confident that vehicle imports do not pose a national security risk.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce noted that American auto production has doubled over the past decade, and said tariffs “would deal a staggering blow to the very industry it purports to protect and would threaten to ignite a global trade war.”

German automakers Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE), Daimler AG and BMW AG build vehicles at plants in the United States. BMW is one of South Carolina’s largest employers, with more than 9,000 workers in the state.

The United States in 2017 accounted for about 15 percent of worldwide Mercedes-Benz and BMW brand sales. It accounts for 5 percent of VW brand sales and 12 percent of Audi sales.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and David Gregorio

Assad defies United States, presses assault in southwest Syria

June 22, 2018

by Angus McDowall and Tom Perry


BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syrian government helicopters dropped barrel bombs on opposition areas of the country’s southwest on Friday for the first time in a year, a war monitor and rebel officials said, in defiance of U.S. demands that President Bashar al-Assad halt the assault. Assad has sworn to recapture the area bordering Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and the army this week began ramping up an assault there, threatening a “de-escalation” zone agreed upon by the United States and Russia last year.

The United States on Thursday reiterated its demand that the zone be respected, warning Assad and his Russian allies of “serious repercussions” of violations. It accused Damascus of initiating air strikes, artillery and rocket attacks.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday demanded an immediate end to military escalation in southwestern Syria, saying he was “concerned at the significant risks these offensives pose to regional security,” a spokesman for the U.N. chief said.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said earlier on Friday that the Syrian military escalation “unambiguously violates” the de-escalation arrangement and that over 11,000 people had already been displaced.

“Russia will ultimately bear responsibility for any further escalations in ‎Syria,” Haley said in a statement.

A major offensive would risk a wider escalation that could draw the United States deeper into the war. The southwest is of strategic concern to U.S.-allied Israel, which has this year stepped up attacks on Iran-backed militia allied to Assad.

The barrel bombs targeted a cluster of rebel-held towns including Busra al-Harir northeast of Deraa city, where the government attack threatens to bisect a finger of rebel ground jutting northwards into land held by the government.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said Syrian government helicopters had dropped more than 12 barrel bombs on the area, causing damage, but no reported deaths.

Abu Bakr al-Hassan, spokesman for the rebel group Jaish al-Thawra, which fights under the banner of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), said the munitions had been dropped on three towns and villages and that war planes had hit another.

“I believe (the bombardment) is testing two things: the steadfastness of the FSA fighters and the degree of U.S. commitment to the de-escalation agreement in the south,” he told Reuters.

Syrian state television said on Friday that army units had targeted “lairs and movements of terrorists” in the area.

The Syrian government has denied using so-called barrel bombs – containers filled with explosive material that are dropped from helicopters and which cannot be accurately aimed. However, United Nations investigators have extensively documented its use of them during the conflict.

While government forces have made heavy use of artillery and rockets in the assault, they have yet to draw on the kind of air power that was critical to the recovery of other rebel-held areas. Russian warplanes have yet to take part, rebels say.

Still, Russia’s Ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin was quoted as saying that Russia was helping Damascus to recover the south.

“The Syrian army now, with support from Russian forces, is recovering its land in the south and restoring the authority of the Syrian state,” Zasypkin told the pro-Hezbollah newspaper al-Akhbar.

“Israel has no justification to carry out any action that obstructs the fight against terrorism,” he added.


A Syrian rebel commander in the south accused Iran of trying to torpedo the de-escalation agreement and vowed fierce resistance. “We possess many weapons,” said Colonel Nassim Abu Arra, commander of the Youth of Sunna Forces group.

Rebels in the southwest have received support, including arms from Assad’s foreign foes during the seven-year-long war.

Analysts of the conflict believe this support continued even after U.S. President Donald Trump decided last year to shut down a military aid program run by the Central Intelligence Agency, though it may have been scaled back.

Assad has this year recaptured the last remaining enclaves of insurgent territory near the capital Damascus and the city of Homs, including the densely populated eastern Ghouta region.

But there are still large areas outside his control. Apart from the southwest, the rebels hold a swathe of northwest Syria. Insurgent groups backed by Turkey also hold parts of the northern border area.

And the quarter of Syria east of the Euphrates is controlled by an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias supported by the United States. The United States also has a base at Tanf, near Syria’s borders with Iraq and Jordan, which controls the Damascus-Baghdad highway.

On Thursday a commander in the regional alliance backing Assad said a U.S. strike had killed a Syrian army officer near Tanf. The Pentagon, however, said a U.S.-backed Syrian rebel group had engaged “an unidentified hostile force” near Tanf, without casualties on either side.

Reporting by Angus McDowall and Tom Perry; additional reporting by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; editing by Mark Potter, James Dalgleish and G Crosse



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