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Senators send rebuke to Saudis, Trump over Khashoggi murder

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Defying President Donald Trump, senators sent a strong signal that they want to punish Saudi Arabia for its role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. By a bipartisan 63-37 vote, the Senate opted to move forward with legislation calling for an end to U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

The vote on Wednesday was a rebuke not only to Saudi Arabia but also to Trump’s administration, which has made clear it does not want to torpedo the long-standing U.S. relationship with Riyadh over the killing.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis both came to Capitol Hill to urgently lobby against the resolution, which would call for an end to U.S. military assistance for the conflict that human rights advocates say is wreaking havoc on Yemen and subjecting civilians to indiscriminate bombing.

The vote showed a significant number of Republicans were willing to break with Trump to express their deep dissatisfaction with Saudi Arabia and with the U.S. response to Khashoggi’s brutal killing in Turkey last month. U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, must have at least known of the plot, but Trump has equivocated over who was to blame.

Khashoggi, who lived in the U.S. and wrote for The Washington Post, was publicly critical of the Saudi crown prince. He was killed in what U.S. officials have described as an elaborate plot at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, which he had visited for marriage paperwork.

Echoing Trump’s public comments on the killing, Pompeo said after Wednesday’s briefing with senators that there was “no direct reporting” connecting the crown prince to the murder, and Mattis said there was “no smoking gun” making the connection.

Pompeo argued that the war in Yemen would be “a hell of a lot worse” if the United States were not involved.

Wednesday’s procedural vote sets up a floor debate on the resolution next week. It would be largely a symbolic move, however, as House Republican leaders have given no indication they would take up the war powers measure before the end of the year — the end of the current Congress.

Several senators said they were angry about the absence of CIA Director Gina Haspel from the pre-vote briefing.

New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, speculated that Haspel didn’t attend because she “would have said with a high degree of confidence that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia was involved in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”

And Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who is often strongly allied with Trump, voted to move forward with the resolution and said he would insist on a briefing from Haspel. He even threatened to withhold his vote on key measures if that didn’t happen and declared, “I’m not going to blow past this.”

CIA press secretary Timothy Barrett said that no one kept Haspel away from the briefing. He said the CIA had already briefed the Senate intelligence committee and Senate leaders and “will continue to provide updates on this important matter to policymakers and Congress.”

In another explanation, a White House official said Haspel decided not to participate in part because of frustration with lawmakers leaking classified intelligence from such settings. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.

The procedural vote received more Republican support than had been expected after the resolution, sponsored by Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, fell six votes short of passage earlier this year.

Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said in the past he had “laid in the railroad tracks to keep us from doing things that I believe are against our national interest as it relates to Saudi Arabia.” But he said he believes the Senate should “figure out some way for us to send the appropriate message to Saudi Arabia that appropriately displays American values and American national interests.”

He said the crown prince “owns this death. He owns it.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., voted against moving ahead with the resolution but said a day earlier that “some kind of response” was needed from the United States for the Saudis’ role in Khashoggi’s death. On Tuesday, he said that “what obviously happened, as basically certified by the CIA, is completely abhorrent to everything the United States holds dear and stands for in the world.”

Pompeo said U.S. involvement in the Yemen conflict is central to the Trump administration’s broader goal of containing Iranian influence in the Middle East. His language was blunt in a Wall Street Journal article, writing that Khashoggi’s murder “has heightened the Capitol Hill caterwauling and media pile-on. But degrading U.S.-Saudi ties would be a grave mistake for the national security of the U.S. and its allies.”

Trump has said it may never be known who was responsible for the killing, and in public comments — and a long and unusual statement last week — he reinforced the United States’ long-standing alliance with the Saudis. Trump has praised a pending arms deal with the kingdom that he says will provide the U.S. with jobs and lucrative payments, though some outside assessments say the economic benefits are exaggerated.

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Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro, Zeke Miller, Matthew Daly, Kevin Freking, Maria Danilova and Laurie Kellman in Washington contributed to this report.

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Foreign Affairs

Where in the world is Palau?

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Where in the world is Palau

I’ll take GEOGRAPHY for $1,000, Alex.

Answer:

Westernmost part of the former U.S. Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.

Question:

What is Palau?

I have not researched to see if Palau has ever actually been a brain stumper on Jeopardy. But to the average American, it is esoteric knowledge that not many other than Jeopardy geniuses would know.

WHAT ISLANDS WERE PART OF TTPI?

United States administered the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands from 1947 until 1994. Today there are three independent nations and one United States territory.

The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands [CNMI] opted to remain a U.S. Territory and for U.S. citizenship.

Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and Palau chose independence.

All four of these entities are within the Micronesian region in the Northwest Pacific. Hawaii and American Samoa and most of the Eastern Pacific are part of Polynesia. Melanesia consists of the islands in the Southwestern Pacific near Australia.

PALAU IS NOW A SOVEREIGN NATION

Though it is now independent and a member of the United Nations, Palau still depends very heavily upon the United States for its supporting infrastructure.

The United States military provides security.

The U.S. Postal Service still delivers mail as domestic to and from Palau with Zip Code 96940.

United States dollars are still used as the currency of Palau.

The economy of Palau depends upon agriculture, fishing, government, tourism and American assistance.

COMPACT OF FREE ASSOCIATION

Palau, as did Federated States of Micronesia and Republic of the Marshall Islands, entered into a Compact of Free Association with the United States. Under the provisions of the CFA, Palau citizens are able to travel to the United States and even to reside and work without a visa. If they have a criminal record either back in Palau or here in the USA, then they would not be admissible.

You may also see the term Freely Associated States [FAS] in reference to Palau, Federated States of Micronesia and Republic of the Marshall Islands.

SO WHERE IS PALAU?

Palau is 1,043 miles southeast of Manila, Philippines at about 7.5° N. Lat., just slightly farther north of the equator than the city of Davao on the Southern Philippine Island of Mindanao which is 625 miles west. Palau is just 619 miles north of the Indonesian province of West Papua which lies just slightly south of the equator in the southern hemisphere.

Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia lies just 281 miles to the northeast of Palau. FSM includes the states of Yap, Chuuk (Truk), Pohnpei and Kosrae. Though it is part of the Micronesian region, Palau is separate and independent from FSM.

TOURISM AND HISTORY

Palau, along with FSM, provides many opportunities for divers and aquatic enthusiasts from the United States who make the long journey to the tropics.

World War II buffs are attracted by battlefields such as Peleliu Island.

There isn’t much else for subsistence for the 22,000 residents of Palau.

MEETING WITH PRESIDENT TRUMP

In late May 2019, U.S. President Donald Trump met with Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine, Federated States of Micronesia President David Panuelo, and Palau President Tommy Remengesau in Washington DC to discuss the Blue Pacific strategy.

While this is an historic occasion, and a very positive sign, it still was more of a photo op than a substantive negotiation. There is much more the United States needs to do to assist the good people of Palau and the other FAS countries.

The United States Coast Guard and FEMA provide services to Palau. U.S. Indo-Pacific Command based in Honolulu and the component military services are increasingly visiting Palau due to its strategic location.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Insular and International Affairs also focuses on former and current territories all the way from Palau to the U.S. Virgin Islands somewhat over 10,000 miles away. That’s a big job and a big area to cover.

MORE PACIFIC BASIN INITIATIVES NEEDED

For about 15 years after 1989, there were multinational programs throughout the Pacific Basin and Pacific Rim in which the United States and allied nations cooperated to assist one another ~ along with small island nations and territories ~ in law enforcement and Customs matters.

The primary large countries overseeing this communication were the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. All have a presence and a vested interest in this volatile part of the world.

Palau was an active participant in these programs and benefited greatly.

PROJECT COOK

Named for the British Seafarer and Explorer Captain James Cook of the 18th century, this was a small vessel tracking system which monitored both yachts and commercial fishing vessels that circumnavigate the Pacific Ocean, with more of an emphasis on the private craft. Customs Inspectors in each respective country boarded yachts and filled out the same form which was put into an online database. Thus, information on vessels and bio-data on crew members were shared among the participating countries and territories.

The main thrust of this was drug interdiction. Some small Islands also used it for revenue collection so that they would anticipate boats which were coming their direction.

This program continued till the mid- to late-1990s.

CAPERS

Not a seafood dish, but rather an acronym for Customs Asia-Pacific Enforcement Reporting System.

Computers were provided to small islands at a time beginning in 1999 when they were not already present in all locations.

The United States along with partners Australia and New Zealand provided national support centers to assist in their respective AORs.

CAPERS went beyond what Project Cook had done. Training material was posted for the benefit of Customs Officers from small islands who had no formal Academy. A forum and email were provided to assist coordination efforts. Much open source information was also provided about smuggling threats in the Pacific.

Narcotics smuggling by yachts is still a very serious ongoing situation in the Pacific. That is another topic to which a complete article will be devoted later. There is also the potential for terrorists and weapons of mass destruction to evade detection in border clearances that do not scrutinize yachts the way they do large commercial vessels and aircraft.

PACIFIC BASIN CONFERENCE

For nearly 20 years, the U.S. Customs Service Office of Enforcement sponsored a Pacific Basin Conference in Honolulu every year. Support and participation was also provided by Customs Inspectors. Counterparts from all over the Pacific were hosted and provided very informative speakers as well as opportunities for group discussions. Most activities were held at the East-West Center at the University of Hawaii Manoa campus.

SO WHAT HAPPENED?

9/11/2001 happened! The late great U.S. Customs Service under U.S. Department of the Treasury, founded the same year the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1789, ceased to exist on March 1, 2003. Members of President George W. Bush’s Administration who had little knowledge of agency missions set about to merge agencies to create the new U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Customs inspections were merged with immigration inspections and agriculture inspections into U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The old Immigration and Naturalization Service under Department of Justice also became a thing of the past.

Customs investigations were merged with immigration investigations into U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The third component created under DHS is U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

RELEVANCE TO PALAU

Small Pacific islands are very vulnerable to penetration and infiltration from outside. Palau doesn’t even have its own military. Its Customs and Immigration personnel could benefit greatly from increased or reestablished direct ties with the United States.

Palau citizens who travel to the United States would most often pass through their first Port of Entry in Guam where they would be admitted by a U.S. CBP Officer. Guam and CNMI are anomalies because they are part of the United States for immigration purposes but outside the Customs Territory of the United States. Therefore U.S. CBP officers in Guam perform immigration duties whereas customs is provided by the Commonwealth of Guam. Air passengers must clear Customs when they go beyond to Hawaii or the U.S. mainland.

So, you can see that CBP officers in Guam and CNMI which are closest to Palau only do immigration duties but not customs. The nearest U.S. Customs inspection locale is Honolulu. Palau is 805 miles from Guam, which in turn is 3,799 miles from Honolulu. So if you thought these Far West Pacific territories are right next door to Hawaii, think again.

DRUGS AND CORRUPTION ON PALAU

Unfortunately, there is no true tropical paradise in this world. Palau certainly qualifies in terms of climate and weather. But life is not idyllic for the people of Palau.

That’s why the United States needs once again to work hand-in-hand with other large nations that can assist small island countries like Palau.

All of this, of course, is being done with a backdrop of precluding Chinese hegemony in Palau, other former and current U.S. territories and throughout the entire Pacific Basin.

Palau is 1,995 miles south of Tokyo. Japan is America’s strongest ally in the Western Pacific. For well over a half century, Japan has focused on its own economic and cultural stability. It has also become a beneficiary nation to smaller neighbors.

Palau is not only significantly closer, but also much better known to many Japanese citizens than it is to the average American. It makes perfect sense then for the United States and Japan to talk to one another about how to provide mutual assistance to Palau.

This also is in America’s interest as it provides a further hedge against Chinese expansionism in the region. China is exploiting small nations with its Belt and Road Initiative and debt trap diplomacy.

A strong American-Japanese cooperative program to assist Palau with infrastructure development is in everybody’s best interests.

Some of the contraband flooding into Palau may be coming via maritime smuggling. It also may be coming on commercial aircraft and via U.S. mail. That is another entire topic for another day about outbound inspections of U.S. mail that could be enhanced from Honolulu to the U.S. territories. It sometimes pits U.S. Postal Inspectors against CBP and ICE. Keep that in the back of your mind for another essay.

PRIVATE CITIZENS IN USA AND JAPAN ~ WHAT CAN WE DO?

Following is a thoughtful discussion between concerned parties in Hawaii and Japan about how to elevate this situation in Palau to our respective national leadership.

RELATED ARTICLES

America’s good friends in the Philippines

Why America is re-engaging with the Pacific

A Japanese F-35 is missing and that’s a very big deal!

Eyes on the Pacific

China is taking over the world

Countering China

Nuclear threat in the Pacific: It’s not what you think

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Remain circumspect. When you see an article about Palau and the Pacific Basin, take time to read it and educate yourself on the issues.

“The most populous island is Koror. The capital Ngerulmud is located on the nearby island of Babeldaob, in Melekeok State. Palau shares maritime boundaries with the Philippines, Indonesia, and the Federated States of Micronesia.”

Hopefully you might actually find yourself in the position someday to share information if world events ever put Palau in the spotlight. I didn’t even go into the Chinese Uyghurs from Guantanamo Bay that Obama released there during his presidency. Who knows when something like that might lead to breaking news again?

If nothing else, this knowledge might actually win you a million dollars on Jeopardy someday. If not, don’t blame me because I tried.

Palau

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Conservatism

Quick note to #NeverTrump conservatives: Check the policy proposals

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Quick note to NeverTrump conservatives Check the policy proposals

I was a #NeverTrump conservative. I’ve come to terms with the reality that President Trump, with all his flaws, is promoting a mostly conservative agenda. I also acknowledge that any damage done by carrying over the divisiveness that began in the Obama administration has already been done. I still believe I was right to oppose the President’s nomination, and I’m still extremely happy Hillary Clinton isn’t President.

News today that Mark Sanford is considering joining Bill Weld to run against President Trump in the GOP primaries has drawn some praise from many that I follow on Twitter. I understand their emotional response; many of them are still condemning the President and even wishing Clinton had beaten him in 2016. But there comes a time when we have to take the best that we can get, and today that’s President Trump.

And guess what, folks… it isn’t even close. The country under President Trump is better than it would have been under Hillary Clinton and the future of the country is exponentially better off with him than any of the Democrats running for office.

Look at Joe Biden’s proposal for healthcare. It takes the worst parts of Obamacare, elements that couldn’t be included in the original legislation because it was just too radical, and inserts them to form the Affordable Care Act 2.0. This is a disastrous proposal, one that would insert a cost-driving public option into the mix. If you want to make health insurance companies happy, have the government “compete” against them. They’ll be able to raise costs based on the government’s inefficiency and won’t have to deal with the higher-risk, lower-paying patients who will be forced on the government solution.

Or, consider the push towards open borders. Elizabeth Warren’s plan is de facto open borders, and all of the Democratic candidates will embrace it, just as they embraced her plans for free education, reparations, and anything else they’re calling “free.”

I often hear NeverTrumpers say the President’s foreign policy actions are embarrassing. They chide him for stepping into North Korea. They laugh when a British ambassador calls him an imbecile. But the alternative is a return to the Iran nuclear deal, failures over China policy, and the infamous “flexibility” President Obama had with Russia.

You’re angry because Trump is President. You’re angry because things haven’t imploded as you predicted. But you’re siding with socialists who truly want to destroy America. It’s time to grow up and pick the right side again.

We are currently forming the American Conservative Movement. If you are interested in learning more, we will be sending out information in a few weeks.

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Democrats

Trump was right: Omar and Tlaib should learn from the Jews

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Trump was right Omar and Tlaib should learn from the Jews

President Trump has been taking a beating in the media after his comments that “the group of four” progressive freshman congresswomen should leave the country, but isn’t there a bigger lesson to be learned here? Immigration has been a great blessing for America. American Jews, for example, have raised up and inspired the country with their values of hard work, perseverance in the face of persecution, and appreciation for the country that shared its blessings with them.

As a Jewish history expert and author of “Trump and the Jews,” I believe that Omar, Tlaib, and company can learn a lot by studying the remarkable American Jewish immigrant experience in the twentieth century.

Q & A for Mayor David Rubin:

Was Trump’s statement correct, implying that the four Democrat congresswomen should go back to where they came from?

MAYOR RUBIN: It was factually incorrect because three out of the four were born in the United States, but given that they all come from immigrant families, the president is raising some poignant questions about different kinds of immigrants.


What was the president trying to say, or was it all about politics?

MAYOR RUBIN: In a presidential campaign, everything becomes political, but his message was that any person or family that comes to America should be humble and loyal and show appreciation for the goodness that they receive from living in a free country in which the sky is the limit.


Doesn’t President Trump believe that these women appreciate America?

MAYOR RUBIN: Apparently not. Based on their statements, it’s clear that they see the US as a country that is racist at its core. They also seem to have no respect for the Judeo-Christian heritage on which the country was founded.


What can be learned from the American Jewish experience that is relevant to this situation?

MAYOR RUBIN: American Jews arrived in the US mostly in the early part of the 20th century. They were poor, they were discriminated against, but their response was not to complain about America nor to organize days of rage. The Jewish response was to work hard, long hours in whatever jobs they could find and to exhort their children to do the same in school.


You wrote the book, “Trump and the Jews,” in which you answered many questions about Jewish-Americans and why they vote the way they do. Where can we get a copy?

MAYOR RUBIN: Go to Amazon.com and just type in the words, “Trump and the Jews”.


Bio: David Rubin, former Mayor of Shiloh Israel, is the author of the book, “Trump and the Jews”. Rubin is the founder and president of Shiloh Israel Children’s Fund, established after he and his then three-year-old son were wounded in a terror attack. He can be found at www.DavidRubinIsrael.com or at www.ShilohIsraelChildren.org

We are currently forming the American Conservative Movement. If you are interested in learning more, we will be sending out information in a few weeks.

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