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Trump touts July 4 military ‘salute’; critics see politics

Trump touts July 4 military ‘salute’; critics see politics

Washington, (AP) President Donald Trump marshaled tanks, bombers and other machinery of war on Tuesday for a Fourth of July celebration that traditionally is light on military might, while critics accused him of using America’s military as a political prop.

Under White House direction, the Pentagon was scrambling to arrange for an Air Force B-2 stealth bomber and other warplanes to conduct flyovers of the celebration on the National Mall. There will be Navy F-35 and F-18 fighter jets, the Navy Blue Angels aerial acrobatics team, Army and Coast Guard helicopters and Marine V-22 Ospreys.

A small number of 60-ton Army Abrams battle tanks were sent to Washington by rail to be positioned on or near the National Mall, though the District of Columbia government fired back with its own verbal salvo.

“Tanks, but no tanks,” it tweeted, adding that the Pentagon itself said last year that a tank’s steel tracks could damage city roadways. Also scheduled to make appearances over the Mall are the presidential Air Force One and Marine One aircraft.

Trump, casting the extravaganza as a “Salute to America,” tweeted on Tuesday that military leaders are “thrilled” to participate. If so, they were hiding it well.

Pentagon officials referred questions to the White House. Military officials would not even say on the record whether Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, plans to attend.

“Military Leaders are thrilled to be doing this & showing to the American people, among other things, the strongest and most advanced Military anywhere in the World,” Trump tweeted. “Incredible Flyovers & biggest ever Fireworks!” “This is raw politicization,” countered Loren Dejonge Schulman, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and a Pentagon and White House official during the Obama administration.

She said in an email exchange that Trump’s use of the military appears to be less about honoring the men and women serving in uniform than about trying to “brag to and humor” his political cronies.

Rep. Betty McCollum complained, “Mr. Trump is hijacking the celebration and twisting it into a taxpayer-funded, partisan political rally that’s more about promoting a Trumpian cult of personality than the spirit of American independence and freedom.

The Minnesota Democrat, who chairs the Interior Appropriations subcommittee, said the Interior Department and the Pentagon have not answered multiple requests for details on how much the event will cost.

White House officials sought to counter the criticism by stressing that the president would deliver a patriotic speech at the Lincoln Memorial during an event that he has billed as honoring the U.S. armed forces.

The administration undercut its own assertion of it being a nonpolitical event, however, when senior presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway said the speech will highlight “the success of this administration in opening up so many jobs for individuals, what we’ve done for veterans,” in addition to celebrating democracy, patriotism and the military.

A fundamental feature of the military’s role in American democracy is its insulation from politics, which is meant to ensure the armed forces’ loyalty to the Constitution rather than to an individual elected leader.

That is why, for example, members of the military are not allowed to participate in political campaigns, and why Trump’s first defense secretary, Jim Mattis, slow-rolled a White House plan for a Veterans Day military parade last year.

Muscular military displays of the kind that are common in authoritarian countries like China and North Korea are not quintessentially American, although military bands and honor guards customarily participate in holiday parades and warplanes sometimes are used in flyovers at big sporting events.

The US traditionally has not embraced showy exhibitions of raw military power as a claim of international prestige and influence.

Trump had wanted a military parade of tanks and other equipment in Washington after he watched a military parade on Bastille Day in Paris in 2017. His plan eventually was scuttled, partly because of cost, though he apparently held on to the idea. Local officials objected at that time, too.

A ticket-only area in front of the Lincoln Memorial is being set aside for VIPs, including members of Trump’s family, friends and members of the military, the White House said.

The Republican National Committee is distributing a “small number” of tickets to the event, which it says is standard practice and follows what the Democratic National Committee did under Democratic presidents. However, those were smaller events at the White House, for example, and not major productions taking over the National Mall.

David Lapan, a retired Marine colonel and former senior spokesman at the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security, said enlisting troops for a Fourth of July event in the nation’s capital only adds to their stress.

“After 18-plus years of war, we have asked a lot of our military and their families, and they have sacrificed,” Lapan said. “Let’s give them a day off rather than a day on for this holiday.” Some Democrats in Congress objected to what they saw as Trump’s political motives.

“Most shameful of all is the fact that our military is being co-opted for a gratuitous display of strength by a commander in chief who relishes the attention of dictators and despots,” she said.

The Pentagon said it had made no overall estimate of the cost of the military’s participation. The Air Force said it costs 122,311 an hour to fly the B-2 bomber, which is to make the trip from its home at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri and back. Officials said this will be considered a training event, the cost of which is already budgeted. They said the per-hour flying cost of the F-22 fighter is 65,128.

Pak’s ex-president Zardari arrested in separate corruption case

Pak’s ex-president Zardari arrested in separate corruption case

Islamabad,(PTI) Pakistan’s anti-corruption body on Monday arrested jailed former president Asif Ali Zardari in another corruption case.

He is already in the custody of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) till July 2 in a multi-million dollar money laundering case along with his sister Faryal Talpur.

According to the NAB, the duo made transactions of Rs 150 million through alleged fake bank accounts.

The NAB investigators are of the view that if Zardari’s physical remand, which ends on Tuesday, is not extended by the court, they would require another option and could use the arrest warrants in the Park Lane case to keep him in NAB custody for longer, the Dawn newspaper reported.

The 63-year-old co-chairman of the Opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and husband of the country’s first woman prime minister Benazir Bhutto was this time arrested in the Park Lane case which is related to the alleged properties in London.

Zardari became the co-chairman of PPP after the assassination of Bhutto in 2007.

His arrest came after he withdrew his interim bail applications filed with the Islamabad High Court against.

Zardari said that he withdrew the plea as the NAB would come up with more fake cases if he was granted bail.

Last week, he appeared in Parliament for the first time after being arrested and called for an end to his arrest, saying it would not make a difference rather create fear among the people.

The NAB is expected to seek his remand in the Park Lane case.

Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur were already facing charges of using fake accounts to park multi-million dollar money and sending it abroad. Both were arrested last month and both have denied the charges.

His political career has been overshadowed by the allegations of corruption due to which he has spent several years in custody although he was never convicted.

Zardari, the 11th President of Pakistan from 2008 to 2013, has denied any link with the fake accounts. He has said the allegation was part of a vilification campaign by the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party to malign opposition leaders.

Trump steps into North Korea in historic first

Trump steps into North Korea in historic first

Panmunjom,  (AFP) Donald Trump stepped onto North Korean soil in a historic first Sunday as he met Pyongyang’s leader Kim Jong Un in a moment of high diplomatic drama on the world’s last Cold War frontier.

Moments after becoming the only sitting US president to set foot inside North Korea, Trump brought Kim back over the dividing line for a meeting where they agreed to start working-level talks on Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons.

Trump also said he had invited the young leader to the White House “anytime he wants to do it”.

“It was an honor that you asked me to step over that line, and I was proud to step over the line,” he told Kim.

As they sat down for discussions, Kim said their “handshake of peace” in a location that was “the symbol of the division of north and south” showed that “we are willing to put the past behind us.” The impromptu meeting in the DMZ — after Trump issued an invitation on Twitter on Saturday — came with negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington at a deadlock.

Their first summit took place in a blaze of publicity in Singapore last year but produced only a vaguely worded pledge about denuclearisation. A second meeting in Vietnam in February intended to put flesh on those bones broke up without agreement.

Contact between the two sides has since been minimal — with Pyongyang issuing frequent criticisms of the US position — but the two leaders exchanged a series of letters before Trump issued his offer to meet at the DMZ.

Trump’s entry onto North Korean soil — which he said was uncertain until the last moment — is an extraordinary sequel to the scene at Kim’s first summit with Moon Jae-in last year, when the young leader invited the South Korean president to walk over the Military Demarcation Line, as the border is officially known.

A Kim trip to Washington would be even more spectacular, although Trump said the visit would happen “at the right time.”

Moon seized on last year’s Winter Olympics to broker the process between Pyongyang and Washington after tensions soared in 2017 as the North carried out multiple missile launches and its biggest nuclear test to date, while Trump and Kim traded mutual insults and threats of war.

The significance of the meeting in the no-mans-land splitting the peninsula — where the two sides and their allies fought each other to a standstill in the 1950-53 Korean War — was “obvious”, said Stimson Centre Asia analyst David Kim.

“It’s historic for Trump to be the first US President enter North Korea soil, historic for Moon to meet, albeit briefly, with both leaders.” The meeting had the “potential to kick-start stalled negotiations”, he told AFP but added that working-level discussions would be crucial.

“What we need is substance, not theatrics.” The Hanoi summit foundered on disagreements over what the North — which has carried out six nuclear tests and developed missiles capable of reaching the entire US mainland — would be willing to give up in exchange for relief from sanctions that have hobbled its economy.

Soo Kim, a former CIA analyst now with RAND Corporation, said the North’s “gravitational force has pulled Trump across the DMZ”, calling it an “alluring elixir of wile, threatening rhetoric, stalling, and dangling of the remote possibility of resuming dialogue”.

Such a meeting has long been sought by the North, but “Kim didn’t have to lift a finger to get Trump to cross the DMZ”, she added. “It was, in all appearances, by Trump’s volition.” The DMZ has been a regular stop for US presidents visiting the South, a security ally — although Trump’s helicopter was forced to turn back by fog in 2017 — while Panmunjom saw the first two summits between Moon and Kim last year.

“This was a great day,” the US president said before flying out on Air Force One.

“This was a very legendary, very historic day.

Pompeo meets PM Modi, discusses key strategic issues

Pompeo meets PM Modi, discusses key strategic issues

New Delhi, (PTI) US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday and discussed various aspects of the bilateral relationship to strengthen the India-US strategic partnership.

Pompeo, who arrived here last night, will hold detailed discussions with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in the afternoon and have a working lunch with him

“Working together to further deepen our strategic partnership. Secretary Pompeo called on PM Narendra Modi to exchange views on various aspects of Indo-US relationship. PM will meet President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the upcoming G20 Osaka Summit,” Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted along with pictures of the meeting

Ahead of the strategically-important India-US talks, diplomatic sources on Tuesday said India meets the US waiver criteria for procuring the S-400 missile defence system from sanctions-hit Russia, and asserted that New Delhi cannot “wish away” its defence ties with Moscow

Besides India’s missile defence system deal with Russia, terrorism, H-1B visas, trade and the situation arising out of US sanctions on buying oil from Iran, are likely to be discussed on Wednesday during the talks between Jaishankar and Pompeo

Pompeo’s talks here will be the first high-level interaction between the two countries after return of the Modi government to power last month

Pompeo’s visit comes ahead of a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Modi on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan later this wee

Trump hails ‘very, very good relationship’ in talks with Putin

Trump hails ‘very, very good relationship’ in talks with Putin

Osaka, (AFP) US President Donald Trump on Friday hailed his “very, very good relationship” with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin as the two leaders held talks on the sidelines of the G20 meeting.

“It’s a great honor to be with President Putin,” said Trump, who last held face-to-face talks with the Russian leader in Helsinki in 2018.

“We have a very, very good relationship,” Trump said.

The keenly awaited meeting between the pair has been overshadowed by a probe into Trump’s relations with Russia and the controversy that erupted the last time he held talks with the Kremlin leader.

Asked before traveling to Japan about the planned talks, Trump told reporters the content of the discussions was “none of your business”.

“I’ll have a very good conversation with him,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “What I say to him is none of your business.” Trump has been dogged throughout his presidency by allegations of suspicious ties to Russia.

A major probe led by special prosecutor Robert Mueller found there was an organized Russian campaign to influence the 2016 election won by Trump. It found contacts between Russian operatives and Trump’s election campaign, but no evidence of a joint plot.

Trump has characterized Mueller’s findings as a complete exoneration. However, he remains under fire from opponents for what they say is his consistently opaque relationship with Putin.

In Helsinki last year, Trump refused at a joint press conference with Putin to criticize Russian interference in the 2016 election and said that he believed the Russian leader’s denials.

Not interested in getting more famous: Maisie Williams

Not interested in getting more famous: Maisie Williams

London,  (PTI) “Game of Thrones” star Maisie Williams says the epic fantasy series has given her a lot of fame but she is not interested in working towards increasing her popularity.

The 22-year-old actor tasted success with her stint as Arya Stark in the HBO series, which is in its final season.

The first of episode of season eight premiered in the US on April 14.

‘I still see ignorant comments feel like I personally have to remove myself because I had a taste of that sort of fame with this show and I made a vow to myself: I do not want that.

“My agents say things to me like, ‘We’ll raise your profile’, and I don’t really understand what that means because to me it sounds like getting a whole lot more famous, which is something I’m not interested in. If this show is the greatest thing I ever do, I did OK. I didn’t do too bad,” Williams told The Observer.

“Game of Thrones” airs in India on Star World.