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Foreign Affairs

Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani to step down, ending independence bid

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Masoud Barzani

The Kurdish bid for independence is essentially over as Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani will resign from his post effective November 1st. The referendum for independence that he championed passed last month but prompted severe backlash from the Iraqi and Iranian governments.

Even his resignation was met with turmoil as armed protesters stormed the Kurdish parliament as they met to approve their leader’s resignation.

“I am the same Masoud Barzani, I am a Peshmerga and will continue to help my people in their struggle for independence,” said Barzani.

23 of the 70 Kurdish MPs voted against accepting Barzani’s resignation.

The United States backed Iraq, Turkey, and other regional powers in opposition to the independence referendum.

My Take

This was an opportunity for the United States to back one of its most loyal allies in the Middle East. It was the Kurdish Peshmerga who aided us the most in the Gulf Wars. They’ve fought long and hard for their independence and we turned our back on them.

It was also a missed opportunity for President Trump who could have made a mark in the history books by backing the Kurds and helping them achieve independence. It wouldn’t have taken military or financial assistance; simple diplomacy would have been enough to give the Kurds a chance. Instead, the co-author of “The Art of the Deal” caved instantly to demands from anti-American regimes in Iran and Turkey.

Further Reading

Iraqi Kurds’ Independence Dreams Dashed as President Steps Down

https://www.wsj.com/articles/iraqi-kurd-leader-to-step-down-as-president-following-independence-vote-1509279415ERBIL, Iraq—Masoud Barzani is to step down as president of Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdish region just a month after an independence referendum reversed years of political and military gains made by the Kurds and dashed their dreams of statehood.

Mr. Barzani “refused to remain” in office beyond Nov. 1, in a letter read to the Kurdish parliament on Sunday before a session to discuss how the president’s powers should be redistributed. He will continue to play a role in politics without holding any formal position, a member of…

Kurds Mark End of an Era as Masoud Barzani Stands Down Over Failed Independence Bid

http://www.newsweek.com/who-masoud-barzani-kurdish-leader-confirms-he-stepping-down-after-independence-695693The 71-year-old wrote a letter to the regional parliament on Sunday to inform lawmakers that he would end his presidency of the semi-autonomous region, which he has led since 2005.

“I refuse to continue in the position of president of the region after November 1,” the letter read according to a tweet by his Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), one of the two major parties in Kurdish politics alongside the rival Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).

Kurdish leader Barzani resigns after independence vote backfires | Reuters

http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-mideast-crisis-iraq-kurds-barzani/kurdish-leader-barzani-resigns-after-independence-vote-backfires-idUKKBN1CY0JS?il=0Barzani condemned the United States for failing to back the Kurds. “We tried to stop bloodshed but the Iraqi forces and Popular Mobilization Front (Shi‘ite militias) kept advancing, using U.S. weapons,” he said.

“Our people should now question, whether the U.S. was aware of Iraq’s attack and why they did not prevent it.”

Carl is a gaming fanatic, forever stuck on Reddit and all-around lover of food. He writes about cars for several publications and lives in northern California.

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Education

Whoopi is right about the behavior of UCLA Basketball players in China

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Whoopi Goldberg

I’m not a big fan of Whoopi Goldberg, okay but I have to tell you that I agree with her regarding the following statement.  This is in regards to a couple of UCLA basketball players who thought they could take something from a store in China and not pay for it.

You embarrassed your families, you embarrassed the country, and you embarrassed the president. Now I’m not a big fan of the president, but the fact that he had to call and get your asses out of there is not anything to be proud of or think is cool.  If this isn’t the stupidest thing a young person has done, particularly if you’re over six-feet tall, and black… is this just the ridiculous stupidity of youth?

Let me add one more thing. You’re an embarrassment to UCLA itself, and their athletic department as well.  Now I am not a big fan of those who run academia, but if these jerks are given the right punishment, I shall give the university credit and praise for doing it.  All right UCLA, the ball is in your court.  Do something right for once.

Further Reading

Whoopi Goldberg to ‘Stupid’ UCLA Players: You’re Fortunate Trump Could ‘Get Your A**es Out’ of China

http://freebeacon.com/issues/whoopi-goldberg-ucla-players-fortunate-trump-get-out-china/“Now, you’re in China—you’re this big!” she said, reaching high into the air to indicate the players’ height. “It’s not like you’re gonna blend, you’re not going to blend in, run out.”

Goldberg said their families and mentors had no doubt told them numerous times not to do things like this, and she said the foolishness of youth is the only explanation for something so dumb.

President Trump says ‘You’re welcome’ after UCLA Bruins players thank him for help with China incident

http://www.espn.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/21432885/president-trump-says-welcome-ucla-bruins-players-thank-help-china-incidentUCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill stole from three stores, were arrested and surrendered their passports. Trump, who was already on an Asia trip, spoke to President Xi Jinping of China about the incident, and the players were allowed to return to the United States on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, all three read prepared statements at a news conference in which it was revealed that they have been suspended from the team indefinitely. They thanked the Chinese government and police for how they were treated and United States officials for helping secure their release.

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Economy

Trump gives China “great credit” for “taking advantage” of U.S. on trade

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Trump gives China great credit for taking advantage of US on trade

From the day Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the presidency up until election day, he railed against China for taking advantage of the United States economically. His push for “fair trade” even changed the long-standing Republican paradigm of free trade.

As President on his first trip to China, his tune has changed. He still believes that China takes advantage of the United States on trade, but he doesn’t blame them. In fact, he gave China and President Xi Jinping great praise.

“I don’t blame China. After all, who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for the sake of its citizens?” he said shortly after signing non-binding business deals worth $250 billion. “I give China great credit.”

It has been a common aspect of the President’s modus operandi when dealing with U.S. and world leaders to be cordial and complimentary towards them when with them or talking to them directly, then returning to negative rhetoric later. This was most clear in his dealings with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.

While the business deals were positive notes for these initial meetings, the topic of North Korea was more severe. Trump called on China to cut economic ties in an effort to make them halt their nuclear weapons program. He said the Chinese President could “easily and quickly” resolve the situation through pressure as the biggest ally to North Korea.

“I know one thing about your president, if he works on it hard, it will happen,” Trump said while addressing the crowd at the signing ceremony. Following light chuckles from the crowd, he added, “They know.”

Further Reading

Trump does not blame China for ‘unfair’ trade

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-41924797The total trade relationship between the pair was worth $648bn last year, but trade was heavily skewed in China’s favour with the US amassing a deficit of $310bn.

While still characterising the relationship as “very unfair” and “one-sided”, Trump said on Thursday that China was not at fault, instead blaming previous US administrations.

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Foreign Affairs

Russian lawyer claims Trump Jr. said administration would reconsider Magnitsky Act if Trump won

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Natalia Veselnitskaya

If it can be proven, it could be the smoking gun special counsel Robert Mueller needs to tie the Trump campaign directly to Russian collusion. It will likely take more than the testimony of Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, though, and her potential testimony is the only evidence that the Magnitsky Act was ever discussed.

The act was punishment signed by President Obama in 2012 for the death of Sergei Magnitsky in 2009. It affected 18 Russians, preventing them from entering the United States or using its banking system.

Magnitsky Act – Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnitsky_ActThe Magnitsky Act, formally known as the Russia and Moldova Jackson–Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012, is a bipartisan bill passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Obama in November–December 2012, intending to punish Russian officials responsible for the death of Russian tax accountant Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow prison in 2009.

In 2009, Russian tax accountant Sergei Magnitsky died in a Moscow prison after investigating fraud involving Russian tax officials. While in prison, Magnitsky developed gall stones, pancreatitis and calculous cholecystitis and was refused medical treatment for months. After almost a year of imprisonment, he was beaten to death while in custody.[1][2][3]

Veselniskaya claim she met with Trump Jr., then-campaign manager Paul Manafort, and adviser and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. During the meeting, she claims Trump Jr. made a veiled offer.

“Looking ahead, if we come to power, we can return to this issue and think what to do about it,” Trump Jr. said of the 2012 Magnitsky Act, according to Veselnitskaya. “I understand our side may have messed up, but it’ll take a long time to get to the bottom of it.”

Even if he didn’t make the offer, the alleged attempt to acquire opposition research on Hillary Clinton, which Veselniskaya claims he kept going back to in their conversation, is enough to be considered worthy of investigation.

At this point, it’s her word versus theirs and there’s little to no chance anything can be made of it legally. The account of one witness, particularly one who is as shady as Veselniskaya, won’t be enough to make Mueller move forward. He’ll inquire. He’ll search for any other evidence, but if nothing else is found, he’s nowhere. The allegations of one eyewitness cannot be enough to take down a President, his campaign, or his administration.

Further Reading

Russian lawyer: Donald Trump Jr. said Magnitsky Act could be reconsidered if Trump won

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/russian-lawyer-donald-trump-jr-said-magnitsky-act-could-be-reconsidered-if-trump-won/article/2639744Veselnitskaya attended a meeting at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, with Trump Jr., then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Veselnitskaya said she met with Trump Jr. and other campaign officials last year to show them evidence that Democratic donors evaded taxes and to push for the repeal of the 2012 Magnitsky Act.

Specifically, she said she had sent Trump Jr. information about Ziff Brothers Investments, which is linked to hedge fund manager William Browder. Browder and Ziff Brothers Investments invested in Russia, and Browder pushed for passage of the Magnitsky Act, which Veselnitskaya is lobbying against.

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