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Rouhani says new U.S. sanctions violate nuclear accord

DUBAI (Reuters): President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday new U.S. economic sanctions imposed against Iran contravened the country’s nuclear accord with world powers and he vowed that Tehran would “resist” them, state television reported.

According to Reuters the Trump administration slapped the new sanctions on Iran on Tuesday over its ballistic missile program and said Tehran’s “malign activities” in the Middle East undercut any “positive contributions” coming from the 2015 Iran nuclear accord.

“Some of the actions of the Americans are against the spirit and even the letter of the (nuclear accord). We shall resist these plans and actions,” Iranian state television quoted Rouhani as saying. “One of the plots of the Americans is to act in such a way that would make Iran say that it is not following its commitments… I think the Americans will fail as we will always respect our international commitments,” Rouhani said.

Iran’s parliament agreed on Tuesday to discuss measures, including increased funding for the missile program, as retaliation for the new U.S. sanctions, state media reported.

The U.S. measures signal that the administration of President Donald Trump is seeking to put more pressure on Iran while keeping in place the agreement between Tehran and six world powers to curb its nuclear program in return for lifting international oil and financial sanctions. The U.S. government said it was targeting 18 entities and people for supporting what it said was “illicit Iranian actors or transnational criminal activity.”

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Israeli Christian man kills teenage daughter over relationship with Muslim

JERUSALEM (AFP): An Israeli Christian man has been accused of killing his 17-yr-old daughter over her relationship with a Muslim.

The prosecutors believe this to be an ‘honour’ killing incident, however, Sami Karra, 58, denied killing his daughter due to their ‘bad relationship’, The Independent reported. The daughter, Henriette Karra, was in a relationship with a Muslim man, who was serving time in Israeli prison, and she intended to convert to Islam for him.

Henriette left her parents’ home in May, after their objection to her relationship and lived with her boyfriend’s mother for a while. After receiving threats from her family to return home she sent messages to friend fearing “they are sending people to kill me”.

The boyfriend’s mother called the police and social services to intervene in the case, who later summoned Henriette and her parents to a joint meeting on 11 June – two days before she was killed – and suggesting she enter a women’s shelter. Officials said the teenager refused the offer and asked for help to rent a flat instead, returning to her parents’ home after the meeting to attend a graduation party at her Jewish school the next day.

On June 13th, Henriette deposited 400 shekels (£86) into her boyfriend s prison canteen account before returning home and telling a relative he would be released at the end of the week, and that she intended on converting to Islam. The relatives informed the parents of the situation. Later on the same day, Henriette was found dead in the kitchen of her parents’ home, with stab wounds to her neck.

According to documents seen by the Jerusalem Post, the father believed Henriette’s actions “damaged the honour of the family and made him feel ashamed”. “The defendant decided to cause the death of the deceased and in order to realise his goal he was equipped with a knife,” the indictment said. “The defendant stabbed the deceased three times, causing her death on the spot.”

Lawyers representing Karra said he was not guilty and claimed the bad relationship between Henriette and her family was “no secret”, adding: “This did not lead to murder and could not lead to murder. The complaints against [Henriette] were only to reunite the family.”

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India’s haughty approach behind bloodshed in IOK: Gilani

SRINAGAR (Online): In occupied Kashmir, the Chairman of All Parties Hurriyat Conference, Syed Ali Gilani has said that the haughty approach and wrong policies of India have created mayhem and are continuously instigating bloodshed in the territory.

Syed Ali Gilani made these remarks in his telephonic address to the people present at funeral prayers of a martyr youth, Showkat Ahmad Lohar, at Dialgam in Islamabad district. Showkat along with two other youth was killed by India troops at Nowgam in Islamabad district. Paying tributes to the martyrs, he said, “Ours is a rightful struggle and we have no intentions to separate or snatch any part of India.”

Media reports said the martyr had expressed wish that Syed Ali Gilani should lead his funeral. The APHC Chairman said he would have offered the funeral had he not been under house detention. “We have a definite goal and our struggle is disciplined, not pointless,” Gilani said in his address. “Well talented and well-organised leadership with a history of sacrifices is leading the movement and we are duty bound to carry this mission to its logical end.”

Referring to recent statement of Indian Army Chief, General Bipin Rawat, Gilani said under a well-thought-out plan, Kashmiri youth are being pushed to the wall and compelled to choose other options of resentment.

Terming the situation in the territory as appalling, the he said youth are being assassinated and attempts are being made to malign the freedom struggle. He asked people not to support the pro-Indian politicians. Gilani said Islam is a complete code of conduct and its manifesto of universal brotherhood of human beings stresses that all humans are brethren.

“Hence, we have no hostile sentiments against the people of India. For the last seventy years, we have been striving for a sacred cause and it is our in-depth desire to see the Muslim Ummah on one page. Peace is our mission and we wish to end the disparity among various sects and section of society,” he said.

Meanwhile, the forum led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq in a statement also paid rich tributes to three youth martyred by troops in Nowgam.

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India revokes Zakir Naik’s passport

NEW DELHI (AFP): The passport of Islamic preacher Zakir Naik was revoked at the behest of the India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA), Hindustan Times report quoted officials as saying.

Naik’s passport was revoked after he failed to respond to a show-cause notice in relation to an investigation on July 13. The NIA was probing Naik under allegations of money laundering and terror, stated the report.

Naik had his passport renewed last year in January, and it will expire after 10 years. In November 2016, the Indian government had blocked website of Naik’s not-for-profit organisation the Islamic Research Foundation.

On the recommendation of Mumbai Police and National Security Agency, the Indian government had also imposed a five-year ban on International Research Foundation.

Indian and Bangladeshi law enforcement agencies had launched a probe against the speeches of Naik, whose sermons were said to have allegedly inspired two of the Dhaka attackers who killed more than 20 hostages last year in a café in Bangladesh. “I disagree that I inspired this act of killing innocent people” Naik had said and had declared terrorism “Devil-ish”.

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US sanctions Iran over missiles, despite nukes compliance

WASHINGTON (AFP): The US slapped fresh sanctions on Iran Tuesday over its ballistic missile programme, just hours after Washington admitted the Islamic Republic was complying with a landmark nuclear deal signed two years ago.

Iran’s parliament retaliated by voting for extra funding for the missile programme, a move that speaker Ali Larijani said would show the Americans that Iran “will resist them with all its power.”

The heightened tensions came after President Donald Trump was forced to back off from a key campaign promise to withdraw from a 2015 nuclear accord with Tehran, which eased sanctions in return for limiting its ability to produce material for atomic weapons.

Trump had described it as “the worst deal ever” and accused Iran of continuing to back terrorism in the Middle East. But on Monday the White House admitted that the Islamic Republic was sticking to the nukes agreement.
It noted, however, that while Iran might be meeting its requirements on paper, it was unquestionably in default of the spirit” of the accord.

In announcing the new sanctions against 18 individuals and entities in Iran, the State Department said it “remains
deeply concerned about Iran’s malign activities across the Middle East which undermine regional stability, security, and prosperity.”

It cited Iran’s support for Hezbollah, Hamas, the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Huthi rebels in Yemen fighting a US-backed coalition led by Saudi Arabia.

In addition to earmarking an additional $260 million for its ballistic missile Iran’s parliament retaliated by voting for extra funding for the missile programme, Iran’s parliament also agreed Tuesday to allot a similar amount to the Revolutionary Guards’ foreign operations wing, the Quds Force, accused by Washington of fomenting unrest across the region.

The Pentagon has also repeatedly voiced concern over a string of high-profile incidents in waters off Iran involving Iranian vessels. It has accused the Revolutionary Guards of conducting risky maneuvers around US warships in the Gulf, some of which resulted in the Americans firing warning shots.

“These sanctions target procurement of advanced military hardware, such as fast attack boats and unmanned aerial vehicles, and send a strong signal that the United States cannot and will not tolerate Iran’s provocative and destabilising behavior,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Washington is also concerned about the fate of Xiyue Wang, a 37-year-old Chinese-American researcher at Princeton University who was recently sentenced to 10 years in Iranian prison.

While the US complained about Iran’s defiance of the spirit of the nuclear accord, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he would make his own complaints about US non-compliance when representatives of the five nuclear powers — China, Russia, France, Britain, the United States — plus Germany meet in Vienna on Friday to take stock of the deal.

Zarif accused the Trump administration of failing to lift sanctions in line with the deal. He said he had no communication with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in stark contrast to his predecessor John Kerry, with whom Zarif negotiated the groundbreaking nuclear deal.

“It doesn’t mean there can’t be. The possibilities for engagement… have always been open,” said Zarif in New York, where he was attending a UN forum on development. He said he was willing to discuss Wang’s case “on humanitarian grounds” but stressed that Iran’s courts were independenpent of the government.

Trump and his top security officials have always taken a tough line on Iran: his defense secretary, Jim Mattis, fought Iranian-backed militias during the US occupation of Iraq while serving as a Marine general, and memories are still fresh of Hezbollah’s attack on the Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon in 1983.

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US says death of ISIS-K leader in Afghanistan to disrupt group’s expansion plans

WASHINGTON (AFP): Pentagon Spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis has said that the death of Abu Sayed, the head of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-Khorasan (ISIS-K), who was killed in a US strike in Kunar province, will disrupt group’s plan to expand its operation in Afghanistan.

The ISIS emir was killed on July 11 in the attack by US forces. He had taken the charge after US forces killed the previous ISIS-K leaders, Hafiz Sayed Khan in late July, 2016 and Abdul Hasib, in late April this year.

The Pentagon Spokesman told reporters that, “ISIS threatened America in the West because of its commitment to plot, direct and inspire terrorist attacks and its ability to recruit, move and finance the terrorists who commit these attacks.”

“The terrorists have been very clear in their propaganda. They want to recruit and attack globally,” said Davis while noting that the group, which numbers in hundreds in Afghanistan, doesn’t hold any meaningful territory in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province.

“There are certainly fighters there, but they are mostly spending their time trying to stay alive,” he said in a report posted on Pentagon’s website. “The Afghan forces partnered with the U.S. forces are keeping constant pressure on them. We assess that they are most active in Nangarhar, Kunar and Nuristan [provinces]. We’ve been putting pressure on them as they try to gain footholds elsewhere.”

Meanwhile, Afghan forces, advised by US Marines, recapture the Nawa district from the Taliban on Monday. Afghan forces were supported by US air power, which targeted their positions in support of the operation.

“Nawa plays a large role in the security of Lashkar Gah, because it is one of the larger towns that is just south of Lashkar Gah,” Davis said.

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Fights in Taiwan’s parliaments begins again

On the outside, the main building of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan – or parliament – is a picture of calm.

Two rows of neatly-trimmed shrubbery and trees line the courtyard leading to the stately-looking, white building with a Republic of China (Taiwan) flag on top.

But inside, the picture is very different.

In fact, while parliamentary brawls occur occasionally in other countries, Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan is notorious for them.

Rowdy and sometimes violent scuffles occur as often as several times a year and even every few days or weeks.

Punching, hair pulling, throwing plastic bottles and water balloons, as well as splashing cups of water on the faces of rival party legislators are common scenes. Air-horns and filibustering – more like shouting – are also used to drown out one’s opponents.

However this month’s fights have become even uglier. Last Thursday, legislators lifted up and threw chairs at each other when they brawled over the ruling DPP’s massive $29bn (£22bn) infrastructure spending bill, which the opposition (headed by the KMT) claims benefits cities and counties loyal to the DPP and is aimed at helping the party win forthcoming elections.

The fighting continued on Tuesday in a legislative committee meeting. The opposition KMT legislators wrestled DPP members to the floor and unplugged the cables of loud speakers to prevent the DPP from putting the bill through a committee review to move it towards passage into law.

Opposition parties, a minority in the 113-seat parliament, see physical fights as the only way to stop legislation they oppose, by blocking them from being voted on.

The standoffs can last for hours, even into the middle of the night. Legislators take turns eating or delay meals.

Many staff from local governments, ministries or government agencies have to be there, to see if legislation that affects them might pass, or to be on hand to answer questions in case there is actual discussion and debating, not just brawling.

These people find ways to put up with the chaotic scenes. Some cover their ears, others focus on their smartphones, and a few smart ones find the most comfortable couches in the back and manage to sleep through it all.

It’s become a normal part of Taiwan’s democracy – one of the most vibrant in the world.

 

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Trump’s attempt to replace Obamacare fails again

Washington DC: Republican efforts to find a replacement for President Obama’s healthcare system have collapsed.
Two Republican senators said they opposed their party’s proposed alternative, making it impossible for the bill to pass in its current form.
The party has been divided on the issue, with moderates concerned about the effects on the most vulnerable.
President Trump has now called for repeal of Obamacare, so Republicans can start “from a clean slate”.
That task falls to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“Regretfully, it is now apparent that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful,” Mr McConnell said.
What had been proposed?
President Trump had made repealing and replacing Obamacare, under which more than 20 million people gained healthcare coverage, a key campaign pledge.
Republicans view the 2010 legislation as an overreach of the federal government and say patients have less choice and higher premiums.
The party’s proposed alternative had kept key Obamacare taxes on the wealthy, while imposing sharp cuts to healthcare for the poor and allowing insurers to offer less coverage.
Why is Obamacare so controversial?
Obamacare v Republican plan compared
Why has it failed?
Two Republican senators, Mike Lee and Jerry Moran, said the new legislation did not go far enough in repealing Obamacare.
Mr Moran said “we should not put our stamp of approval on bad policy” while for Mr Lee, “in addition to not repealing all of the Obamacare taxes [the bill] doesn’t go far enough in lowering premiums for middle class families; nor does it create enough free space from the most costly Obamacare regulations”.

Two senators – Rand Paul and Susan Collins – had already opposed the bill. Mr Paul said the bill kept too much of the “ObamaCare taxes”, while Ms Collins expressed concerns about cuts to Medicaid.
With the two new opponents, Republicans – who hold 52 seats – no longer have enough votes to pass the bill in the 100-member Senate.
‘I owe my life to Obamacare’
Moderate Republicans had also said the bill would have harmed some of their vulnerable constituents.
The non-partisan Congressional Budgetary Office (CBO) found the bill would have stripped 22 million Americans of health insurance over the next decade.
On top of that, polls had shown Obamacare remained popular among Americans – a survey by the Washington Post and ABC News on Monday found more than twice as many people preferred Mr Obama’s programme to the proposed alternative.

 

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Brazil protesters pelt politician with eggs at her wedding

BRASILIA (AFP): A Brazilian politician has accused left-wing protesters of physically and verbally abusing her wedding guests over her family’s support for President Michel Temer.

Maria Victoria Barros, 25, is a member of the state assembly in Parana and daughter of Mr Temer’s health minister.
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the church where the ceremony was taking place on Friday evening. Pelted with eggs, she had to leave the church in an armoured vehicle. The lavish ceremony attracted the state’s political elite, including her father, Ricardo Barros, and her mother, Cida Borghetti, Parana’s deputy governor.

At least 30 member of the Brazilian Congress were invited to travel from the capital Brasilia for the wedding in the Parana state capital, Curitiba. Demonstrators carried anti-government signs and shouted slogans at Ms Barros, accusing her of being a “coup plotter”.

Footage posted on YouTube shows security guards opening umbrellas to try to protect the bride and groom as they left the Church of the Rosary. A detachment of riot police was eventually called in to protect the newly-weds and their guests.

Ms Barros said the protest was linked to her mother’s recent decision to run for state governor and had been “financed by left-wing parties and unions”. She regretted the attacks against some of the guests but added: “This is the price of democracy”.

The incident is another illustration of how split and bitter Brazilian politics has become since the impeachment last year of Mr Temer’s predecessor, Dilma Rousseff. During the impeachment trial, Ms Rousseff described the move as a right-wing coup, supported by her vice-president at the time, Mr Temer. Supporters of her Workers’ Party were further angered by the conviction of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Wednesday to nine years and six months in jail for corruption.

Lula has rejected claims that he received an apartment as a bribe in a corruption scandal linked to state oil company Petrobras. He has appealed against the verdict, saying the trial was politically-motivated, aimed at preventing him from running for office again next year. Lula served eight years as president until 2011.

Federal Judge Sergio Moro, from Parana state, ruled that he could remain free pending an appeal.

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Judge me on four things, said Trump

WASHINGTON (Reuters): President Trump claims the news media isn’t paying attention to real policy issues, like jobs, the economy, so-called Islamic State and the border. “At some point the Fake News will be forced to discuss our great jobs numbers, strong economy, success with ISIS, the border & so much else!” he tweeted.

Six months into his presidency, how is he faring in these areas? And how much is he tweeting about these policy priorities? During the campaign, Mr Trump vowed to create 25 million jobs over 10 years and become “the greatest jobs president… ever”.

In the past he discredited US jobless figures, claiming the actual unemployment rate was over forty per cent. Now he’s America’s CEO, he’s embracing the same figures he once described as “phony”. So, are the jobs numbers “great”, as his tweet suggests? Yes – the jobs market is looking healthy, with the overall trend showing that unemployment is falling. The president is also right when he says there are more jobs around – in June 222,000 jobs were created.

But this steady economic performance isn’t a drastic change from what we saw under President Barack Obama, when job growth increased at a steady pace. One area where that growth isn’t being matched is in wages, and there have been calls for President Trump to address this issue. Then there’s his promise to bring more jobs back to the US from overseas – a pledge which energised much of his base.

Shortly after his election victory he spoke of how he had saved 1,100 jobs with the Indiana based air conditioner firm, Carrier. Months later, 600 of those jobs are still moving to Mexico. Other companies like Boeing and Ford are expanding production overseas, rather than in the US. Despite the president’s assurances he would reverse what he described as “job theft” overseas, it’s proving difficult.

The latest growth figures, released since President Trump took office, showed a decline in the GDP rate (1.4%) in the first three months of this year, compared with the three months preceding (2.1%).

It was one of the worst readings for nearly a year, but not necessarily bad news for President Trump, as economists say the first quarter of the year usually posts a lower rate. Overall, the president is correct when he characterises the US economy as “strong”. Upward growth is part of a trend, in which the US economy has picked up since the financial crisis in 2008. Some of the improvement in the markets can be attributed to anticipation that the president and the Republican pledge to reduce taxes and cut regulations will be implemented. But he’s still not managed to pass tax reform laws.

3. Fighting Islamic State During the campaign Donald Trump didn’t mince his words when it came to so-called Islamic State (IS), famously using an expletive to describe how much bombing he would carry out. He added: “I’d just bomb those suckers. I’d blow up the pipes, I’d blow up the refineries, I’d blow up every single inch – there would be nothing left.”

Back then Mr Trump was wary to reveal details but promised he had a “secret plan”. Since entering office, he has ordered a review of US policy on IS. Despite criticising his predecessor’s handling of the militant group (“he’s the founder of ISIS”), the Trump administration’s strategy is strikingly similar. It includes continuing strikes and targeted raids, more support to local forces, and freezing the assets of IS operatives. The goals are the same too – to take control of IS strongholds like Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq – and coalition forces have already seen success in the latter. But there are some key differences in tactics.

One is the decision to arm Syrian Kurds to help take Raqqa, despite objections from the Turkish government. The second is a tougher stance on “annihilating” IS fighters, which has led to a rise in the number of civilian casualties caught up in attacks. The third is that the Trump administration is authorising a far greater number of air strikes as it makes its push, and has ramped up operations against IS in Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.

In Afghanistan his administration dropped the “Mother of All Bombs” to kill IS militants. And, when President Trump authorised a strike against a chemical weapons factory in Syria earlier this year, he showed he’s not afraid to use military force when he feels it is necessary. It shows another key difference between him and his predecessor Barack Obama, who promised such action, but didn’t deliver.

4. The border Securing America’s borders was the centrepiece of Donald Trump’s election pitch. At campaign rallies he promised to crack down on illegal immigrants in the US, with his focus on criminals.

He often raised the case of Kate Steinle, a young woman from Seattle who was killed by an illegal immigrant who had been deported five times. At the end of June he introduced “Kate’s law” which would increase penalties for immigrants who re-enter the US after they’ve been deported. It was passed by the House of Representatives, and will now come before the Senate.

In the president’s first 100 days, more than 41,000 people were arrested on the suspicion they were in the US illegally, an increase on the previous year. About 10,800 had no criminal conviction, compared with 4,200 the previous year. But despite his tough talk on the issue, President Trump actually deported fewer people in his first 100 days than Barack Obama.

In Trump’s first 100 days 54,564 people were deported, compared with 62,062 for the same time period in the previous year under his predecessor. And let’s not forget Donald Trump’s plans to tighten the border even further – his flagship plan to “build a wall” is moving along. Companies have until September to pitch their prototypes. At a recent rally in Iowa, the president said it could be a “solar wall” which would pay for itself.

For months the president’s travel ban this was blocked by the courts and failed to become law. After a decision by the US Supreme Court in June, it’s partially in effect, but it’s not as drastic. Visitors from the six designated countries can still enter, if they have a bona fide connection to the US.