NEWS   WEDNESDAY, MAY  17, 2017   NEWS

Krauthammer: 'Stunning' That GOP Won't Defend Trump On Comey Memo
Charles Krauthammer said the lack of Republicans defending President Trump from the latest damaging news report about his administration. The New York Times reported that former FBI Director James Comey wrote a memo saying Trump asked him to discontinue his bureau's investigation into Gen. Michael Flynn. Krauthammer said it was "stunning" that no Republicans - "not even from the White House" - have defended Trump following this report. Fox News
VOA VIEW: Time will tell.

Comey Replacement List Shrinks As Cornyn, Others Drop Out
Rep. Gowdy withdraws from consideration for new FBI chief. The lengthy roster of potential candidates to replace ousted FBI Director James Comey is slimming, with Sen. John Cornyn becoming the latest to drop out of the running on Tuesday. The Texas Republican and Senate majority whip announced his decision in a written statement Tuesday afternoon. “Now more than ever the country needs a well-credentialed, independent FBI Director,” Cornyn said. “I’ve informed the Administration that I’m committed to helping them find such an individual, and the best way I can serve is continuing to fight for a conservative agenda in the U.S. Senate.”A source familiar with Cornyn’s thinking told Fox News he felt obligated to consider the opportunity of leading the FBI out of a desire to restore stability. Fox News

US Allies Taken Aback By Intel Sharing Revelation
Trump shared classified information."It's a big deal, and we want to make sure sensitive information is handled properly," a European diplomat told CNN, adding that the country represented by the diplomat would not cut communications with the US entirely but could potentially reassess what information is transmitted at the political level. The diplomat -- who spoke to CNN on the condition that neither their name nor country were identified -- said allied agencies could explore ways to share specific information through channels used only by military and intelligence officials. CNN
VOA VIEW: CNN is anti America and very, very liberal.

Trump Voters Want Jobs. Not Noise About Russia
President Trump is in danger of doing what he accused so many "career politicians" of doing: Going to Washington and forgetting what real people care about.
For months, I've traveled the country talking with dozens of Trump voters. No one has ever brought up Russia, an issue that President Trump seems obsessed with. The topic never came up in Ohio, Kentucky or Michigan. Last week, I was in Wisconsin. There too, Russia never came up, nor did the FBI, both of which are dominating news from the White House. These states went to Trump and were critical to his election. All voters there want to talk about is how America needs more jobs. They don't mean jobs at McDonald's or an Amazon warehouse. They mean jobs that will allow them to have decent, middle class lives, that pay over $25 an hour, and come with health care and retirement benefits. CNN

'Living Memorial': Putting Kennedy Back Into Kennedy Center
This year, in honor of the 100th anniversary of JFK's birth, leaders of the performing arts behemoth are trying to put the Kennedy back into the Kennedy Center. They are reemphasizing its role as a "living memorial" to the slain 35th president. "Most people, even the people who've lived in this city all their lives, not all of that group understand that it's a memorial," Kennedy Center president Deborah Rutter said in an interview. "It doesn't necessarily click for people that a performing arts center would be a memorial to a president." After Kennedy's 1963 assassination, turning the center into a memorial made perfect sense. Kennedy, who served at the height of the Cold War and pushed the U.S. space program forward with his bold pledge to put a man on the moon, was also a strong advocate for the arts. He actively raised money for the center, which initially was to have been called the National Cultural Center. Philadelphia Inquirer

Shariah Court In Indonesia Sentences Gay Couple To Caning
An Islamic Shariah court in Indonesia's conservative Aceh province has sentenced two gay men to public caning for the first time, further undermining the country's moderate image after a top Christian politician was imprisoned for blasphemy. Police officer escorts two men accused of having gay sex into a holding cell to wait for the start of their trial at Shariah court in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, Wednesday, May 17, 2017. A Shariah court in Indonesia´s conservative Aceh province has sentenced two gay men to public caning for the first time, further tarnishing the country´s moderate image after a top Christian politician was imprisoned for blasphemy. The court, whose sentencing Wednesday coincided with International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, said the men, aged 20 and 23, would each be subjected to 85 lashes for having sexual relations. One of the men wept as his sentence was read out and pleaded for leniency. Philadelphia Inqurier
VOA VIEW: Pitiful!

This Is What Would Happen If North Korea Launched A Real Attack
President Trump would have “maybe 10 minutes” to decide whether to launch a retaliatory strike against North Korea — should it ever fire a missile that’s capable of reaching the US mainland, experts say. Speaking to the Associated Press about what would happen in the event of a nuclear strike from the North, scientist David Wright, of the UCS Global Security Program, and rocket analyst Markus Schiller, of ST Analytics in Germany, described how the drama would unfold. “The timelines are short,” Wright explained. “Even for long-range missiles, there are a lot of steps that go into detecting the launch and figuring out what it is, leaving the president with maybe 10 minutes to decide whether to launch a retaliatory strike.” NY Post
VOA VIEW: Should we wait?

This Georgia City Was Named One Of The Worst Cities In The US To Start A Career
Of the 150 most populated cities in America, one Georgia city ranked among the worst places in the nation to start a career. In fact, Augusta (about two hours east of Atlanta) came in third to last in personal finance website WalletHub’s best and worst places to start a career in 2017. To come up with the list, WalletHub analysts compared the most populated US cities across two key dimensions: professional opportunities and quality of life. Scores were assessed based on 23 relevant metrics including availability of entry-level jobs, annual job growth, median annual income, average commute time among several others. Analysts collected data from the U.S. Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Housing and Urban Development and more. With a total score of 68.72, Salt Lake City, Utah, was named the best city to start a career in 2017. The city earned top honors across both key dimensions. Atlanta Journal

Greece Disrupted By General Strike As Lawmakers Mull Cuts
A nationwide general strike disrupted services across Greece Wednesday, as lawmakers were set to approve another batch of reforms that will impose years more hardship on austerity-weary Greeks. Unions called the strike to protest new belt-tightening measures that will be imposed beyond the end of Greece's third bailout next year, including pension cuts and tax hikes. The left-led coalition government agreed to the reforms as part of a deal with the country's international creditors to release funds from its bailout. Without the cash, Greece would once more struggle to meet a spike in debt repayments due this summer and face another brush with bankruptcy. Houston Chronicle

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Grassley, Feinstein Strongly Hint That Trump Is Not A Target Of FBI Probe
Reading from a prepared statement last Thursday, Grassley said he and Feinstein know who the targets of the FBI investiation are; they will not say who they are; but they've heard nothing from the FBI to contradict Trump, who says he was informed three times by former FBI Director James Comey that he is not a target of the ongoing FBI investigation. Mr. Comey did brief Ranking Member Feinstein and me on who the targets of the various investigations are. It would not be appropriate for me to reveal those details before the professionals conducting the investigations are ready.  So, I will not answer any questions about who are targets of the ongoing Russia investigations.  But I will say this: Shortly after Director Comey briefed us, I tweeted that he should be transparent. I said he should tell the public what he told Senator Feinstein and me about whether the FBI is or is not investigating the President. CNS
VOA VIEW: There is no question that the president is a target.

Pope-Trump Feud Is Pure Media Hype
"The Two Have Clashed in the Past." That is how Time is characterizing next week's meeting between Pope Francis and President Trump. The New Yorker is more dramatic, saying, "Pope Francis is the Anti-Trump." Huffington Post is typically irresponsible: "Trump and Pope Francis Will Finally Meet After a Year of Ideological Sparring."The spin masters in the mainstream media, almost all of whom like the pope and hate the president, are in high gear promoting the message that there is a real divide between the two men. CNS News

U.S. Court Rejects Georgia Inmate's 'Firing Squad' Motion
A U.S. appeals court has rejected a Georgia death row inmate's last-minute appeal to postpone his Tuesday execution by lethal injection and instead compel the state to use a firing squad, which his lawyers claim would be less painful for him.J.W. Ledford, 45, has spent about a quarter century on death row after being convicted of the 1992 robbery and murder of a doctor who lived near him. He was scheduled to be put to death at 7 p.m. EDT (2300 GMT). Lawyers for Ledford said he wants to be executed by firing squad because a drug he takes for nerve pain would lead to an “excruciating death” under Georgia’s current lethal injection protocol. Reuters

Democrats In U.S. Senate Try To Slow Republican Deregulation
Democrats are striking back at the U.S. Congress and White House over their push to cut regulations, as Republicans ratchet up attacks on rules they say hurt business and give bureaucrats too much power. New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, a Democrat, on Tuesday introduced legislation to kill the Congressional Review Act (CRA), a law Republicans used over the span of three months this year to repeal 14 regulations enacted by former President Barack Obama, also a Democrat. Booker, one of his party's liberal stars, says that rate shows the CRA is prone to abuse, and the law helps special interests sabotage thoroughly vetted rules they do not like. Reuters
VOA VIEW: Republicans don't fight as dirty as Democrats.

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Chelsea Manning Set To Be Released From Prison, But Still Not Free
Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning is set to walk out of prison Wednesday — but she won't be entirely free. Manning's 35-year sentence for leaking an enormous trove of military intelligence records was commuted by President Barack Obama in January. But Manning is still appealing her conviction in a case that could take years, and the government has yet to respond to the appeal. And all the while, Private First Class Manning, 29, will remain an active duty soldier in the U.S. Army. She won't be paid a salary, and it's highly unlikely that she will be called to serve. But being placed on voluntary excess leave rather than discharged, says one of her attorneys, makes her vulnerable to new military punishment or charges if she steps out of line. MSNBC
VOA VIEW: Manning should go back to jail.

National Security Adviser McMaster: Trump’s Revelations To Russians ‘Wholly Appropriate’
National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster defended President Donald Trump's decision to share sensitive intelligence with Russian officials during last week's visit as "wholly appropriate" amid a firestorm of criticism Tuesday. The White House was in damage control mode over media reports Monday that Trump disclosed highly classified information from an ally with Russia. NBC News confirmed Tuesday that Israel was the key partner that provided the ISIS-related intelligence, according to three government officials with knowledge of the matter. McMaster said the president shared the information in "context of the conversation" with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, saying it was "wholly appropriate to that conversation" and "consistent with the routine sharing of information between the president and any leader with whom he's engaged." MSNBC

Gowdy Takes Himself Out Of FBI Search
Trey Gowdy took himself out of the running to be the new FBI director, saying Monday that he doesn’t feel like he’d be the right pick. The South Carolina Republican, whose stature among GOP voters grew as he led the congressional Benghazi probe, had been mentioned as a frontrunner. But in a statement, he said he spoke with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and took himself out of the running.“I shared with him two things: (1) the qualities I believe are indispensable for our next FBI Director to possess, and (2) my firm conviction that I would not be the right person. I greatly appreciate the Attorney General speaking with me and respecting my decision and I wish him wisdom as he interviews potential candidates. Washington Times

Senate Intel Member Says Trump Closer To Impeachment Process
Intelligence Committee member Sen. Angus King on Tuesday said he believes President Trump is moving toward impeachment territory — following reports that he tried to persuade former FBI Director James Comey to pull the plug on the Russia investigation. “Reluctantly, I have to say yes,” King told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, when asked whether Trump was getting “closer and closer” to the possibility of “another impeachment process.” “Obstruction of justice is such a serious offense,” King (I-Maine) said. “And I say it with sadness, and reluctance. This is not something I’ve advocated for, the word has not passed my lips in this whole tumultuous, three or four months. NY Post
VOA VIEW: King is an idiot.

US, Europe Discuss New Laptop Ban On Flights
U.S. and European officials will discuss Wednesday plans to broaden a U.S. ban on in-flight laptops and tablets to include planes from Europe. The move would create logistical chaos on the world's busiest corridor of air travel — as many as 65 million people a year travel between Europe and North American on over 400 daily flights, many of them business travelers who rely on their electronics to work during the flight. The ban would dwarf in size the current one, which was put in place in March and affects about 50 flights per day from 10 cities, mostly in the Middle East. Tampa Tribune

Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard Statue Is 3rd New Orleans Monument To Be Taken Down
Authorities took down a bronze Confederate-era equestrian statue of Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard early Wednesday. It was the third of four such monuments to be removed in the city. Police began moving pro-monument supporters away from the statue at the entrance to City Park on Tuesday evening in preparation for its removal. A short time later massive spotlights, large cranes and a big work crew showed up at the scene to repeat the drill done twice before, preparing the monument to be taken down.
There were strong views from those watching the removal on both sides of the debate. "When I was a little girl the statue was something fun that I drove by on my way to school," said Janet Rupert, a supporter of removing the monuments. "Learning more about the history of what it really represents, more than just it’s a work of art, it’s a statue, the reasons why it was put up in the first place, I think it’s time to take them down." Some said regardless of what the statue represents, it's a work of art. USA Today
VOA VIEW: Political correct madness and sadness.

Trump's Sharing With Russia Chills Israeli Intelligence
Reports that Israel was the source of highly classified information that President Trump shared with Russian officials last week left a chill among current and former intelligence officials here. Israeli intelligence officers are taking the matter seriously, a military intelligence officer said Tuesday. The officer, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said Israel was warned months ago to be careful about sharing information with Trump's staff, and now that warning has been realized. Israel's vaunted intelligence service, known for an extensive network of human sources and technical collection throughout the Middle East, regularly shares detailed information with the United States, its closest ally. In January, the outgoing Obama administration warned Israeli intelligence officials that Trump's national security staff was inexperienced and should be handled with care. USA Today
VOA VIEW: Contrary to fact by liberal media.

Kellyanne Conway Responds To ‘Morning Joe’ Hosts
Kellyanne Conway on Tuesday responded to criticism from the hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that she had been disingenuous in her promotion of President Donald Trump during the campaign, calling their claims “not true” and “absurd.” Her response came a day after the hosts, Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, used their show to claim that Conway had complained off camera about having to act as Trump’s campaign manager and had only taken the job “for the money,” in Scarborough’s words. Conway, who is now a counselor in the White House, said the two hosts “have become virulent critics of the president and those close to them” and that she had to respond to because the sentiments they attributed to her were not true. Boston Globe
VOA VIEW: Conway should file a lawsuit.

Poland Says Taking Migrants Worse Than EU Rebuke
Poland's interior minister has played down fresh warnings of European Union sanctions over Warsaw's refusal to accept migrants, saying accepting them would have been "worse" than the EU rebuke. Mariusz Blaszczak was reacting Wednesday to fresh warnings by EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos for nations that do not take any migrants by June. Avramopoulos singled out Poland and Hungary. Blaszczak argued on state radio that the "security of Poland and of the Poles" was at stake, and drew a link to terror attacks in Western Europe. He added that accepting migrants would have "certainly been worse for Poland" than facing EU action.
On taking power in 2015, Poland's government reversed a decision by its predecessors to take in some 10,000 refugees. Tampa Tribune

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CIA Chief Mike Pompeo To Brief Congress On Trump-Russia Classified Info Exchange
CIA Director Mike Pompeo is expected to brief the House Intelligence Committee late Tuesday to provide lawmakers information on reports that President Donald Trump shared classified information with Russian officials last week during a meeting at the White House. Last Wednesday, one day after firing FBI director James Comey who was leading a probe into alleged links between the Trump campaign and Moscow, Mr. Trump met Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak in the Oval Office. Reports on Tuesday alleged Mr. Trump inappropriately shared sensitive information.Mr. Trump has said he has every right to share what he did for “humanitarian reasons” and with the aim that Russia would accelerate its fight against ISIS. House members return from a one-week recess mid-day Tuesday and the closed-door Intelligence Committee briefing with Mr. Pompeo was reportedly previously scheduled. Washington Times
VOA VIEW: Trump did no wrong.

Senate Republicans Consider Steeper Cuts To Medicaid
Some conservative Senate Republicans, led by Utah Sen. Mike Lee, are considering significant cuts to Medicaid that would cause millions of people to lose coverage, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday. The aggressive cuts would ultimately provide states with less federal Medicaid dollars and shift costs typically covered by Medicaid away from the program, and onto hospitals and states. Conservative lawmakers also hope to give states more flexibility in how they allocate these federal funds and create incentives for spending Medicaid dollars more prudently. During his presidency, Obama enhanced Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to expand coverage for more people. The American Health Care Act (AHCA) that recently passed in the House would allow the 31 states and D.C. that adopted these expansions to continue with the program as long as they sign up before 2020. CBS
VOA VIEW: Good!

Trump, Erdogan Reaffirm Commitment To Combating Terrorism
President Trump welcomed Turkish President Erdogan to the White House on Tuesday, where the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to combating terrorism and defeating the extremist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Mr. Trump told reporters the U.S. and Turkey both face a "new enemy in the fight against terrorism" and that the two "seek to face this threat together." Ergodan echoed Trump's statements, saying "we are committed to fighting all kinds of terrorism that poses a clear and present threat upon our future.""There's no place for terrorist organizations in the future of our region," added Erdogan. The U.S. and Turkey have been at odds in recent weeks after the Trump administration said it would arm the Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a move that seemed to snub Turkey, which doesn't want the Syrian Kurdish-led force to take the ISIS de facto capital of Raqqa, and has offered its own troops instead. CBS

More Health Insurance Woes Looming: Blame Trump Or Obama?
Another year of big premium increases and dwindling choice is looking like a distinct possibility for many consumers who buy their own health insurance — but why, and who's to blame? President Donald Trump has seized on early market rumbles as validation of his claim that "Obamacare" is a disaster, collapsing of its own weight. Democrats, meanwhile, accuse Trump of "sabotage" on a program he's disparaged and wants to dismantle. It's more complicated, say some independent experts. As for blame, there's enough to go around. Houston Chronicle
VOA VIEW: Blame Obamacare and Democrats who are trying to hold on to it.

EU Loosens Aid Rules To Simplify Airport, Port Investment
The European Union is loosening rules on state aid to simplify government investments in airports and ports. EU rules require governments to notify the bloc's executive Commission in advance of many public investment plans, to ensure they don't distort competition. The Commission decided on Wednesday to expand exemptions. EU governments will now be able to make investments in existing regional airports that handle up to 3 million passengers per year without first having the EU check those plans. The Commission says that will cover more than 420 airports. Member countries will be allowed to invest up to 150 million euros ($165 million) in sea ports and 50 million euros in inland ports without EU scrutiny. The Commission is also relaxing rules on state aid for culture and sports arena projects. Charlotte Observer

Naked Women Are Going Clubbing Wearing Nothing But Tape
Here’s a trend that’s starting to stick: Women in nightclubs wearing nothing more than tape covering their bits and bobs. Which leads to one painfully obvious question: Doesn’t it hurt to peel all that tape off? This odd tale of the tape begins with Joel Alvarez, a photographer in Miami and creator of The Black Tape Project, which he calls “tape art and alternative fashion.” Alvarez tapes pieces of black electric tape onto naked models to make it look as if they’re wearing swimwear. Skimpy swimwear. Really skimpy swimwear. And he’s popular. Very popular. Gee, go figure. “I do believe I’m the first person to tape someone in an artistic fashion,” he told the New York Post. Kansas City Star

UM researchers find new way to measure hurricanes: ‘gravity waves’
Hurricane forecasters may have a new tool in solving the vexing problem of understanding storm intensity: gravity waves. Gravity waves are produced when air moving around the atmosphere gets pushed from one place to another. In a hurricane, those waves can come in quick, short bursts as powerful thunderstorms around the storm’s eye wall swish air up and down like a plunger in a toilet bowl. Scientists have long known they exist, measuring them in the stratosphere about 20 or 30 miles from a storm. Now, for the first time, University of Miami scientists have ventured into the heart of the storm, measuring the waves where they start. And early indications suggest wave power relates directly to storm power. Miami Herald

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White House Disputes Report Trump Asked Comey To Drop Flynn Investigation
The White House is disputing a New York Times report Tuesday that President Donald Trump asked former FBI Director James Comey to end an investigation into the actions of Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser who was forced to resign in February after misleading the administration about his contact with Russian officials. According to The New York Times, Trump requested in February that Comey "let this go," in relation to the inquiry into Flynn's actions. The Times reported that Comey then wrote a memo about his conversation with the president and shared it with top FBI associates. The White House's denial Tuesday came in a statement that notes, “While the president has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn. ABC
VOA VIEW: Highly unlikely.

How Democratic Hopefuls Are Already Jockeying For 2020
The 2020 presidential election is still three-and-a-half years away, but for Democrats trying to turn the page on last November, the search for a candidate who can take down President Donald Trump is already underway. An army of potential 2020 hopefuls -- including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sen. Chris Murphy, Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Gov. Steve Bullock, Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Sen. Cory Booker -- gave their best sell to liberal activists today in a ballroom at the Four Seasons hotel in Washington, D.C. The event, sponsored by the progressive Center for American Progress, drew nearly all up-and-coming Democrats who are gunning for a 2020 presidential bid. Missing from the list? Some big names like Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden and former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. ABC
VOA VIEW: Liberal thinking.

25 Million Americans Could Find Mortgage Tax Break Useless Under Trump’s Plan
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has taken pains to stress that the Trump administration isn’t out to kill Americans’ beloved mortgage-interest tax deduction -- but a side effect of the plan could turn it into a perk for only the wealthy. President Donald Trump has proposed rewriting the tax code to raise the standard federal deduction to a level where about 25 million homeowners would no longer take advantage of the century-old break. A married couple would need a home-loan balance of about $608,000 -- almost triple the mortgage on a median-priced U.S. home -- before using it would make sense, according to a new analysis by property-data provider Trulia. That would be up from about $322,000 today. Bloomberg

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Nikki Haley Tells Countries To Choose Between U.S., North Korea
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations urged other countries to do more to pressure North Korea over its weapons program, saying “You either support North Korea or you support us, you are either with North Korea or not.”Ambassador Nikki Haley made the comments Tuesday, two days after Kim Jong Un’s regime launched a rocket it said could carry a “large-size heavy nuclear warhead.” The launch was the latest defiance of UN sanctions and provides an early challenge for South Korea’s new leader, Moon Jae-in, who has vowed to engage with the regime to bring peace to the peninsula.  Flanked by ambassadors from Japan and South Korea, Haley reiterated the U.S. position that it is willing to engage in talks with Kim’s regime if it abandons its nuclear aspirations. North Korea, however, has said it will prepare for more tests. BLoomberg

Experts See Possible North Korea Links To Global Cyberattack
Cybersecurity experts are pointing to circumstantial evidence that North Korea may be behind the global "ransomware" attack: the way the hackers took hostage computers and servers across the world was similar to previous cyberattacks attributed to North Korea. Simon Choi, a director at South Korean anti-virus software company Hauri Inc. who has analyzed North Korean malware since 2008 and advises the government, said Tuesday that the North is no newcomer to the world of bitcoins. It has been mining the digital currency using malicious computer programs since as early as 2013, he said. In the attack, hackers demand payment from victims in bitcoins to regain access to their encrypted computers. The malware has scrambled data at hospitals, factories, government agencies, banks and other businesses since Friday, but an expected second-wave outbreak largely failed to materialize after the weekend, in part because security researchers had already defanged it . Las Vega Sun
VOA VIEW: NK must be punished hard.

Syria Denies U.S. Accusations Of Mass Executions
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime denied the U.S. Department of State's accusation that it built a crematorium to conceal mass prisoner executions.
Stuart Jones, the U.S. State Department's assistant secretary for the Middle East, said Monday a crematorium at the Sednaya military prison in Damascus is destroying corpses at a rapid rate. In a statement to state-run Syrian Arab News Agency, Syria's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates said the accusation about the crematorium was "totally baseless" and a "new Hollywood story" that is "fundamentally untrue.U.S. administrations continue fabricating lies and allegations to justify their aggressive and interventionist policies in other sovereign countries," the ministry said in a statement. "These allegations are totally untrue and are only fabrications by the imagination of this administration and its agents." UPI

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ISRAELI MINISTER CALLS FOR ASSASSINATION OF SYRIA'S ASSAD
Housing Minister Yoav Galant called for the assassination of Syrian President Bashar Assad following the reports of the regime using a crematorium to hide their atrocities outside Damascus. “The reality in which people are executed in Syria, being hit deliberately by chemical weapons, their bodies being burned, something we haven’t seen in 70 years, we are crossing a red line and it is time to eliminate Assad, literally,” Galant, a former major-general in the IDF and a current member of the National Security Council, said on Tuesday at the Second International Ground Warfare and Logistics Conference at Latrun outside of Jerusalem.Earlier on Tuesday, in an interview with Army Radio, Galant charged that the rule of the Assad regime was the worst since the Nazis in Germany during WWII. Jerusalem Post

ARAB STATES OFFER ISRAEL IMPROVED TIES IN EXCHANGE FOR PEACE CONCESSIONS
Various Arab Gulf nations are reportedly prepared to improve ties with Israel if Jerusalem takes what they deem as significant efforts to relaunch the stagnant peace process with the Palestinians, The Wall Street Journal on Monday cited sources close to the matter as saying.  As part of the normalization process, the Gulf states would reportedly be willing to set up telecommunication lines between the countries, allow for Israeli businesses to trade with their Arab counterparts and allow for Israeli planes to fly over their airspace. In return, Israel would have to freeze settlement construction and relax trade restrictions with the Gaza Strip. The report emerged a week before US President Donald Trump is due to make his first visit to the region. Trump's first foreign trip as president will include stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican. Jerusalem Post

Peace Talks Restart In Geneva
The United Nations has convened a new round of indirect Syrian peace talks in Geneva, despite President Bashar al-Assad dismissing them as irrelevant.The government and opposition have agreed to discuss four "baskets" - a political transition, new constitution, elections and combating terrorism. Mr Assad has said "nothing substantial" will come out of the talks. But UN envoy Staffan de Mistura insists that the government's 18-strong delegation is in Switzerland "to work". Five previous rounds of negotiations have made little progress towards a political solution to the six-year civil war, which has left more than 300,000 people dead. BBC

Republican Lawmakers Bemoan Latest 'Drama' From White House
In familiar chain of events, Republicans largely mum in response to reports Trump provided classified information to Russian officials. Republicans on Capitol Hill have decried the “drama” emanating from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue but remained characteristically tight-lipped in response to the reports that Donald Trump divulged “highly classified” information to senior Russian officials. It’s a chain of reaction that has now grown routine within the party that controls the three branches of the US government. Hours after Trump defended his right as president to share “facts” with Russia, which he said pertained to terrorism and airline safety, lawmakers on Capitol Hill sought more details from the White House – with some calling for the release of transcripts or a briefing before Congress by senior administration officials. Guardian

Trump Stands By 'Absolute Right' To Share Sensitive Information With Russia
Donald Trump has declared he had an “absolute right” to share information of a terrorist plot with Russia amid widespread reports he gave away highly classified information provided by Israeli intelligence. Israel quickly declared it had “full confidence” in its intelligence-sharing agreement with the US, but there was no evidence that it had been consulted on a decision to share a tip-off - a decision the president appears to have made on the spur of the moment in a meeting last week with the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, and the Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak.Analysis Middle East allies at physical and political risk from Trump leak. Guardian

What Does Donald Trump Hope To Achieve On His First Foreign Trip?
Donald Trump is due to make his first trip abroad as president this week in what the White House has characterised as an effort to unite the faiths of the world and reassure allies that America is engaged in leading the world. Mr Trump will set out from Washington on May 19 for the nine-day trip which includes stops in Saudi Arabia, and the Vatican where he will meet with Pope Francis. Then he moves on to Brussels to meet Nato leaders an then the G7 meeting of world economic powers in Sicily. Mr Trump will be accompanied by his wife Melania for the whole trip. Since Ronald Reagan US presidents have made Mexico or Canada their first overseas visit. Telegraph

UN Envoy Warns Against Kosovo And Serbia Trading ‘Ethno-Nationalist’ Barbs
A flurry of recent intolerant and provocative rhetoric has further damaged the trust between Kosovo and Serbia – a development that must be closely watched – though the situation remains generally stable, the head of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Kosovo told the Security Council today. “Escalation has been avoided in several instances due to external diplomatic interventions, but the necessary level of trust between Pristina and Belgrade has been further eroded by a number of irresponsible and inflammatory statements,” said Zahir Tanin, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and the head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), during a quarterly debate on the situation there. UN News

UNESCO Urges Investigation Into Murder Of Award-Winning Mexican Journalist
Following the killing of award-winning Mexican journalist Javier Arturo Valdez Cárdenas, the head of the United Nations cultural agency today encouraged the country’s authorities to move quickly to conduct a thorough investigation to ensure the killing does not go unpunished. A winner of the International Press Freedom Award, Mr. Valdez Cárdenas was shot yesterday in Culiacán in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. “This crime is yet another stark reminder of the dangerous conditions in which all too many courageous journalists exercise their profession,” said Irina Bokova the Director-General of the UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a statement condemning the murder. UN News

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