Trump Unleashes New Attacks Against Democrats and News Media

U.S. President Donald Trump unleashed new attacks Sunday on two of his favorite targets, opposition Democrats and the national news media.

In one of a string of Twitter comments, the U.S. leader contended that Democratic lawmakers were continuing “to obstruct the confirmation of hundreds of good and talented people who are needed to run our government.” He said there is a record number of vacancies in the State Department.

“Ambassadors and many others are being slow walked” in the confirmation process, he said. “Senate must approve NOW!”

However, 13 months into his presidency, Trump has failed to nominate officials to fill key openings, including his ambassador to South Korea, even though he has agreed to meet by May with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over the possible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. There has been a wave of retirements among State Department officials, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has left top positions unfilled.

Trump complained about the national news media’s reports on polls showing him with “somewhat low” voter approval ratings, while he said they underplay the Republican-leaning Rasmussen Reports poll showing him “at around 50%.”

“They know they are lying when they say it. Turn off the show — FAKE NEWS!” Trump said.

The Rasmussen tracking survey on Friday actually showed voters disapproving of his White House performance by a 54-44 percent margin, not much better than Real Clear Politics’s national average of polls giving Trump a negative 53.7-40.9 standing.

Trump claimed news reports have failed to report a 5-0 Republican run of victories in special elections for seats in the House of Representatives since he took office, when the actual number is 5-1, and Republicans lost a Senate seat in Alabama to a Democrat for the first time in 25 years.

Trump also attacked a story in the “failing New York Times” about his possible hiring of another attorney to bolster his response to the ongoing criminal investigation of possible collusion between his 2016 campaign and Russia to help him defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton. He described one of the writers of the story, Maggie Haberman, as “a Hillary flunky (who) knows nothing about me and is not given access.”

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Trump Unleashes New Attacks Against Democrats and News Media

U.S. President Donald Trump unleashed new attacks Sunday on two of his favorite targets, opposition Democrats and the national news media.

In one of a string of Twitter comments, the U.S. leader contended that Democratic lawmakers were continuing “to obstruct the confirmation of hundreds of good and talented people who are needed to run our government.” He said there is a record number of vacancies in the State Department.

“Ambassadors and many others are being slow walked” in the confirmation process, he said. “Senate must approve NOW!”

However, 13 months into his presidency, Trump has failed to nominate officials to fill key openings, including his ambassador to South Korea, even though he has agreed to meet by May with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over the possible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. There has been a wave of retirements among State Department officials, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has left top positions unfilled.

Trump complained about the national news media’s reports on polls showing him with “somewhat low” voter approval ratings, while he said they underplay the Republican-leaning Rasmussen Reports poll showing him “at around 50%.”

“They know they are lying when they say it. Turn off the show — FAKE NEWS!” Trump said.

The Rasmussen tracking survey on Friday actually showed voters disapproving of his White House performance by a 54-44 percent margin, not much better than Real Clear Politics’s national average of polls giving Trump a negative 53.7-40.9 standing.

Trump claimed news reports have failed to report a 5-0 Republican run of victories in special elections for seats in the House of Representatives since he took office, when the actual number is 5-1, and Republicans lost a Senate seat in Alabama to a Democrat for the first time in 25 years.

Trump also attacked a story in the “failing New York Times” about his possible hiring of another attorney to bolster his response to the ongoing criminal investigation of possible collusion between his 2016 campaign and Russia to help him defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton. He described one of the writers of the story, Maggie Haberman, as “a Hillary flunky (who) knows nothing about me and is not given access.”

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India, France Call for Affordable Solar Technology to Address Climate Change

French President Emmanuel Macron pledged over $850 million for solar projects in emerging economies, as both India and France called for affordable solar technology for emerging nations at the first conference of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) held in New Delhi.

 

The alliance was co-founded by both countries two years ago on the sidelines of the Paris climate summit to boost the use of solar power, countering the impact of climate change.

 

Dozens of country leaders, including many from Africa, attended the meeting in the Indian capital and emphasized the need for access to solar technology and concessional financing to address massive energy shortages in many of their sun-drenched nations.

 

Promising more loans and donations for solar projects by 2022, Macron stressed the need to remove obstacles in scaling up clean energy.

“We only have one planet, and we are sharing it,” he said.

 

Pointing to African women called “solar mamas” who are trained in India to use solar technology to light up homes and villages, Macron said they had continued their mission, even after “some countries decided just to leave the floor and leave the Paris agreement” — apparently alluding to U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to quit the Paris climate accord.

 

“Because they decided it was good for them, for their children, their grandchildren. They decided to act and keep acting, and that’s why we are here, in order to act very concretely,” Macron said amid applause.

 

One hundred and twenty-one countries, situated between the tropics, have signed on to the ISA. Backed by the World Bank and other multilateral agencies, it aims to raise $1 trillion for projects by 2030 for a massive deployment of solar energy.

 

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who is chairman of the African Union, pointed out that half the members of the ISA are African countries.

“The sunniest countries in the world should not lack for energy,” he said. “The fact that they do is an unacceptable irony.”

 

The solar alliance initiative is seen as a bid by India to be at the forefront of countries addressing the challenge of climate change — a departure from its stand some years ago that developed economies should cut their emissions more drastically, rather than pressure developing countries.  

 

After the U.S. walked out of the Paris accord, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to abide by it. India, which is the world’s third largest polluter, is ramping up solar energy rapidly in a bid to reduce its carbon footprint. The country plans to source at least 40 percent of its energy from renewables by 2030.

 

“If you want all of humanity to benefit, then I am confident that we all will come together and think like one family, so that we are able to bring unity in our objectives and efforts,” said Modi, advocating a solar revolution worldwide.

United Nations environment chief Erik Solheim, who attended the meeting in New Delhi, called the ISA a “milestone” in the fight against climate change and pollution.

 

 

 

 

 

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India, France Call for Affordable Solar Technology to Address Climate Change

French President Emmanuel Macron pledged over $850 million for solar projects in emerging economies, as both India and France called for affordable solar technology for emerging nations at the first conference of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) held in New Delhi.

 

The alliance was co-founded by both countries two years ago on the sidelines of the Paris climate summit to boost the use of solar power, countering the impact of climate change.

 

Dozens of country leaders, including many from Africa, attended the meeting in the Indian capital and emphasized the need for access to solar technology and concessional financing to address massive energy shortages in many of their sun-drenched nations.

 

Promising more loans and donations for solar projects by 2022, Macron stressed the need to remove obstacles in scaling up clean energy.

“We only have one planet, and we are sharing it,” he said.

 

Pointing to African women called “solar mamas” who are trained in India to use solar technology to light up homes and villages, Macron said they had continued their mission, even after “some countries decided just to leave the floor and leave the Paris agreement” — apparently alluding to U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to quit the Paris climate accord.

 

“Because they decided it was good for them, for their children, their grandchildren. They decided to act and keep acting, and that’s why we are here, in order to act very concretely,” Macron said amid applause.

 

One hundred and twenty-one countries, situated between the tropics, have signed on to the ISA. Backed by the World Bank and other multilateral agencies, it aims to raise $1 trillion for projects by 2030 for a massive deployment of solar energy.

 

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who is chairman of the African Union, pointed out that half the members of the ISA are African countries.

“The sunniest countries in the world should not lack for energy,” he said. “The fact that they do is an unacceptable irony.”

 

The solar alliance initiative is seen as a bid by India to be at the forefront of countries addressing the challenge of climate change — a departure from its stand some years ago that developed economies should cut their emissions more drastically, rather than pressure developing countries.  

 

After the U.S. walked out of the Paris accord, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to abide by it. India, which is the world’s third largest polluter, is ramping up solar energy rapidly in a bid to reduce its carbon footprint. The country plans to source at least 40 percent of its energy from renewables by 2030.

 

“If you want all of humanity to benefit, then I am confident that we all will come together and think like one family, so that we are able to bring unity in our objectives and efforts,” said Modi, advocating a solar revolution worldwide.

United Nations environment chief Erik Solheim, who attended the meeting in New Delhi, called the ISA a “milestone” in the fight against climate change and pollution.

 

 

 

 

 

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Economic Problems Prompt Iran to Cautiously Consider Change

Labor strikes. Nationwide protests. Bank failures.

In recent months, Iran has been beset by economic problems despite the promises surrounding the 2015 nuclear deal it struck with world powers.

Its clerically overseen government is starting to take notice. Politicians now offer the idea of possible government referendums or early elections. Even Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei acknowledged the depths of the problems ahead of the 40th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution.

“Progress has been made in various sectors in the real sense of the word; however, we admit that in the area of ‘justice’ we are lagging behind,” Khamenei said in February, according to an official transcript. “We should apologize to Allah the Exalted and to our dear people.”

Whether change can come, however, is in question.

​An economy run by the state

Iran today largely remains a state-run economy. It has tried to privatize some of its industries, but critics say they have been handed over to a wealthy elite that looted them and ran them into the ground.

One major strike now grips the Iran National Steel Industrial Group in Ahvaz, in the country’s southwest, where hundreds of workers say they haven’t been paid in three months. Authorities say some demonstrators have been arrested during the strike.

More than 3.2 million Iranians are jobless, government spokesman Mohammad-Bagher Nobakht has said. The unemployment rate is more than 11 percent.

Banks remain hobbled by billions of dollars in bad loans, some from the era of nuclear sanctions and others tainted with fraud. The collapse last year of the Caspian Credit Institute, which promised depositors the kinds of returns rarely seen outside of Ponzi schemes, showed the economic desperation faced by many in Iran.

​Or in security services’​ grip

Meanwhile, much of the economy is in the grip of Iran’s security services.

The country’s powerful Revolutionary Guard paramilitary force, which answers only Khamenei and runs Iran’s ballistic missile program, controls 15 to 30 percent of the economy, analysts say.

Under President Hassan Rouhani, a relatively moderate cleric whose government reached the nuclear accord, there has been a push toward ending military control of some businesses. However, the Guard is unlikely to give up its power easily.

Some suggest hard-liners and the Guard may welcome the economic turmoil in Iran as it weakens Rouhani’s position. His popularity has slipped since winning a landslide re-election in May 2017, in part over the country’s economic woes.

Analysts believe a hard-line protest in late December likely lit the fuse for the nationwide demonstrations that swept across about 75 cities. While initially focused on the economy, they quickly turned anti-government. At least 25 people were killed in clashes surrounding the demonstrations, while nearly 5,000 reportedly were arrested.

​A rare referendum?

In the time since, Rouhani has suggested holding a referendum, without specifying what exactly would be voted on.

“If factions have differences, there is no need to fight, bring it to the ballot,” Rouhani said in a speech Feb. 11. “Do whatever the people say.”

Such words don’t come lightly. There have been only two referendums since the Islamic Revolution. A 1979 referendum installed Iran’s Islamic republic. A 1989 constitutional referendum eliminated the post of prime minister, created Iran’s Supreme National Security Council and made other changes.

A letter signed by 15 prominent Iranians published a day after Rouhani’s speech called for a referendum on whether Iran should become a secular parliamentary democracy. The letter was signed by Iranians living inside the country and abroad, including Nobel Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi.

“The sum of the experiences of the last 40 years show the impossibility of reforming the Islamic Republic, since by hiding behind divine concepts … the regime has become the principal obstacle to progress and salvation of the Iranian nation,” read the letter, which was posted online.

But even among moderates in Iran’s clerical establishment, there seems to be little interest in such far-reaching changes, which would spell the end of the Islamic Republic. Hard-liners, who dominate the country’s security services, are adamantly opposed.

“I am telling the anti-Islamic government network, the anti-Iranians and those runaway counterrevolutionaries … their wish for a public referendum will never come true,” Tehran Friday prayer leader Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said Feb. 15, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.

​Take responsibility

Yet there are signs that authorities realize that something will have to give. Khamenei’s apology in February took many by surprise, especially as the country’s true hard-liners believe he is the representative of God on earth.

Khamenei’s apology came after a letter from Mehdi Karroubi, an opposition activist who remains under house arrest, demanding that the supreme leader take responsibility for failures.

“You were president for eight years and you have been the absolute ruler for almost 29 years,” Karroubi wrote in the letter, which was not reported on by state media. “Therefore, considering your power and influence over the highest levels of state, you must accept that today’s political, economic, cultural and social situation in the country is a direct result of your guidance and administration.”

Iran’s former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, blamed by many for the country’s economic woes, has come out for early elections. He also demanded they be “free and fair,” while continuing his own campaign against Khamenei, whom he ignored in his attempt to run in the 2017 presidential election.

However, Ahmadinejad’s action drew immediate criticism, as his own widely disputed 2009 re-election sparked unrest and violence that killed dozens.

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Economic Problems Prompt Iran to Cautiously Consider Change

Labor strikes. Nationwide protests. Bank failures.

In recent months, Iran has been beset by economic problems despite the promises surrounding the 2015 nuclear deal it struck with world powers.

Its clerically overseen government is starting to take notice. Politicians now offer the idea of possible government referendums or early elections. Even Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei acknowledged the depths of the problems ahead of the 40th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution.

“Progress has been made in various sectors in the real sense of the word; however, we admit that in the area of ‘justice’ we are lagging behind,” Khamenei said in February, according to an official transcript. “We should apologize to Allah the Exalted and to our dear people.”

Whether change can come, however, is in question.

​An economy run by the state

Iran today largely remains a state-run economy. It has tried to privatize some of its industries, but critics say they have been handed over to a wealthy elite that looted them and ran them into the ground.

One major strike now grips the Iran National Steel Industrial Group in Ahvaz, in the country’s southwest, where hundreds of workers say they haven’t been paid in three months. Authorities say some demonstrators have been arrested during the strike.

More than 3.2 million Iranians are jobless, government spokesman Mohammad-Bagher Nobakht has said. The unemployment rate is more than 11 percent.

Banks remain hobbled by billions of dollars in bad loans, some from the era of nuclear sanctions and others tainted with fraud. The collapse last year of the Caspian Credit Institute, which promised depositors the kinds of returns rarely seen outside of Ponzi schemes, showed the economic desperation faced by many in Iran.

​Or in security services’​ grip

Meanwhile, much of the economy is in the grip of Iran’s security services.

The country’s powerful Revolutionary Guard paramilitary force, which answers only Khamenei and runs Iran’s ballistic missile program, controls 15 to 30 percent of the economy, analysts say.

Under President Hassan Rouhani, a relatively moderate cleric whose government reached the nuclear accord, there has been a push toward ending military control of some businesses. However, the Guard is unlikely to give up its power easily.

Some suggest hard-liners and the Guard may welcome the economic turmoil in Iran as it weakens Rouhani’s position. His popularity has slipped since winning a landslide re-election in May 2017, in part over the country’s economic woes.

Analysts believe a hard-line protest in late December likely lit the fuse for the nationwide demonstrations that swept across about 75 cities. While initially focused on the economy, they quickly turned anti-government. At least 25 people were killed in clashes surrounding the demonstrations, while nearly 5,000 reportedly were arrested.

​A rare referendum?

In the time since, Rouhani has suggested holding a referendum, without specifying what exactly would be voted on.

“If factions have differences, there is no need to fight, bring it to the ballot,” Rouhani said in a speech Feb. 11. “Do whatever the people say.”

Such words don’t come lightly. There have been only two referendums since the Islamic Revolution. A 1979 referendum installed Iran’s Islamic republic. A 1989 constitutional referendum eliminated the post of prime minister, created Iran’s Supreme National Security Council and made other changes.

A letter signed by 15 prominent Iranians published a day after Rouhani’s speech called for a referendum on whether Iran should become a secular parliamentary democracy. The letter was signed by Iranians living inside the country and abroad, including Nobel Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi.

“The sum of the experiences of the last 40 years show the impossibility of reforming the Islamic Republic, since by hiding behind divine concepts … the regime has become the principal obstacle to progress and salvation of the Iranian nation,” read the letter, which was posted online.

But even among moderates in Iran’s clerical establishment, there seems to be little interest in such far-reaching changes, which would spell the end of the Islamic Republic. Hard-liners, who dominate the country’s security services, are adamantly opposed.

“I am telling the anti-Islamic government network, the anti-Iranians and those runaway counterrevolutionaries … their wish for a public referendum will never come true,” Tehran Friday prayer leader Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said Feb. 15, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.

​Take responsibility

Yet there are signs that authorities realize that something will have to give. Khamenei’s apology in February took many by surprise, especially as the country’s true hard-liners believe he is the representative of God on earth.

Khamenei’s apology came after a letter from Mehdi Karroubi, an opposition activist who remains under house arrest, demanding that the supreme leader take responsibility for failures.

“You were president for eight years and you have been the absolute ruler for almost 29 years,” Karroubi wrote in the letter, which was not reported on by state media. “Therefore, considering your power and influence over the highest levels of state, you must accept that today’s political, economic, cultural and social situation in the country is a direct result of your guidance and administration.”

Iran’s former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, blamed by many for the country’s economic woes, has come out for early elections. He also demanded they be “free and fair,” while continuing his own campaign against Khamenei, whom he ignored in his attempt to run in the 2017 presidential election.

However, Ahmadinejad’s action drew immediate criticism, as his own widely disputed 2009 re-election sparked unrest and violence that killed dozens.

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China: ‘No Winners in a Trade War’

China said Sunday it does not intend to ignite a trade war with the U.S. because the move would be disastrous for the entire world.

“There are no winners in a trade war,” Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan said on the sidelines of China’s annual parliamentary session.

“China does not wish to fight a trade war, nor will China initiate a trade war, but we can handle any challenge and will resolutely defend the interests of our country and our people,” Zhong said.

President Donald Trump signed proclamations Thursday imposing a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum, with the new taxes set to go into effect this month.

​US, Japan, EU talk

Trade representatives for Japan and the European Union met with the U.S. trade representative Saturday in an effort to avoid a trade war over Trump’s new tariffs on aluminum and steel.

At the meeting in Brussels, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom and Japanese counterpart Hiroshige Seko discussed the tariffs as part of a trilateral effort to combat unfair trade practices.

The EU said in a statement that both Brussels and Tokyo had serious concerns about the U.S. tariffs. Both powers, two of the biggest trade partners with the United States, have asked for exemptions from the tariffs.

After the meeting, Malmstrom tweeted, “No immediate clarity on the exact U.S. procedure for exemption … so discussions will continue next week.”

“I firmly and clearly expressed my view that this is regrettable,” Seko said at a news conference following the meeting. “… I explained that this could have a bad effect on the entire multilateral trading system.”

Saturday afternoon, Trump accused the EU of treating “the U.S. very badly on trade.” He said if they drop their “horrific barriers & tariffs on U.S. products… we will likewise drop ours,” he wrote in a tweet.

If they don’t, he warned the U.S. would tax European cars and other products.

​Exemptions unclear

On Friday, the European Union said it is not clear whether the bloc will be exempt from Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs.

EU Trade Commissioner Malmstrom said Friday in Brussels, “We hope that we can get confirmation that the EU is excluded from this.”

Canada and Mexico were given specific exemptions from the tariffs for an indefinite period while negotiations continue on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Brazil, South Korea and Australia have also asked for exemptions or special treatment.

Trump imposed the tariffs despite pleas from friends and allies who warned the new measure could ignite a trade war.

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China: ‘No Winners in a Trade War’

China said Sunday it does not intend to ignite a trade war with the U.S. because the move would be disastrous for the entire world.

“There are no winners in a trade war,” Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan said on the sidelines of China’s annual parliamentary session.

“China does not wish to fight a trade war, nor will China initiate a trade war, but we can handle any challenge and will resolutely defend the interests of our country and our people,” Zhong said.

President Donald Trump signed proclamations Thursday imposing a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum, with the new taxes set to go into effect this month.

​US, Japan, EU talk

Trade representatives for Japan and the European Union met with the U.S. trade representative Saturday in an effort to avoid a trade war over Trump’s new tariffs on aluminum and steel.

At the meeting in Brussels, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom and Japanese counterpart Hiroshige Seko discussed the tariffs as part of a trilateral effort to combat unfair trade practices.

The EU said in a statement that both Brussels and Tokyo had serious concerns about the U.S. tariffs. Both powers, two of the biggest trade partners with the United States, have asked for exemptions from the tariffs.

After the meeting, Malmstrom tweeted, “No immediate clarity on the exact U.S. procedure for exemption … so discussions will continue next week.”

“I firmly and clearly expressed my view that this is regrettable,” Seko said at a news conference following the meeting. “… I explained that this could have a bad effect on the entire multilateral trading system.”

Saturday afternoon, Trump accused the EU of treating “the U.S. very badly on trade.” He said if they drop their “horrific barriers & tariffs on U.S. products… we will likewise drop ours,” he wrote in a tweet.

If they don’t, he warned the U.S. would tax European cars and other products.

​Exemptions unclear

On Friday, the European Union said it is not clear whether the bloc will be exempt from Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs.

EU Trade Commissioner Malmstrom said Friday in Brussels, “We hope that we can get confirmation that the EU is excluded from this.”

Canada and Mexico were given specific exemptions from the tariffs for an indefinite period while negotiations continue on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Brazil, South Korea and Australia have also asked for exemptions or special treatment.

Trump imposed the tariffs despite pleas from friends and allies who warned the new measure could ignite a trade war.

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