Around May 2017, an unusual request from a prominent Venezuelan general made its way to the White House: Gen. Ivan Hernández, head of both the presidential guard and military counterintelligence, wanted to send his 3-year-old son to Boston for brain surgery and needed visas for his family.Trends For You 🔥 Maduro: Guaidó ‘Will Be Jailed’ For ‘All Crimes He’s Committed’ Russia Slams US Sanctions Against Venezuela As ‘Illegal’ Democrats Believe 2020 They Can Win in GOP-Dominated Texas After days of internal debate, the still young Trump administration rejected the request, seeing no point in helping a senior member of a socialist government that it viewed as corrupt and thuggish but wasn’t yet prepared to confront. That decision, revealed to The Associated Press by a former U.S. official and another person familiar with the internal discussions, might have gone unnoticed if National Security Adviser John Bolton hadn’t admonished Hernandez this week on live TV as one of three regime insiders who backed out of a plan — allegedly at the last minute — to topple President Nicolás Maduro. It might also have been one of several missed opportunities to curry favor with Venezuela’s normally impenetrable armed forces. The U.S. also rebuffed a back channel to the alleged ringleader of the would-be defectors, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez. Bolton said Hernández, Padrino and Supreme Court Chief Justice Maikel Moreno chose to stick with Maduro at the moment of truth: when opposition leader Juan Guaidó appeared Tuesday on a highway overpass surrounded by
South Africa's largest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), although heading for defeat in May 8 national elections, pledged to forge coalitions with smaller parties to break the dominance of the ruling ANC, especially at the local level.
South Africans vote for a sixth time since the end of apartheid in 1994, and while an all-out victory for the ruling African National Congress is almost certain, the margin of its majority is set to drop following a decade of weak economic growth and a rise in racial tensions.
At the DA's final campaign rally on Saturday, Mmusi Maimane, the first black African to lead the center-right party, told 5,000 supporters in the township of Soweto the DA would grow jobs, protect minority rights and unite the country.
"You will find us at the heart of coalition governments in this country, as we build a strong center for South Africa, free from the divisions of the past," Maimane said.
Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired scores of rockets into southern Israel on Saturday, wounding at least two Israeli civilians and triggering retaliatory airstrikes and tank fire against militant targets in the blockaded enclave and shattering a month-long lull in violence.
Israeli officials said a 50-year-old woman was severely wounded by rocket fire, while a teenage boy was mildly hurt as he ran for cover. Gaza's Health Ministry said a 22-year-old Palestinian man was killed by an Israeli airstrike, and seven other Palestinians were wounded. Israeli police said a house in the coastal city of Ashkelon was damaged.
The outbreak of fighting came as leaders from Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, and the smaller armed faction Islamic Jihad were in Egypt for talks with mediators aimed at restoring a fraying cease-fire. Hamas leaders have hoped the recent calm would pave the way for a deeper, longer-term cease-fire.
Tensions have been rising in recent days amid allegations from Hamas that Israel has been delaying implementation of last month's cease-fire understandings.
Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn on Saturday completed Buddhist and Brahmin rituals to symbolically transform him into a living god as the Southeast Asian nation crowned its first monarch in nearly seven decades. The coronation of King Vajiralongkorn, 66, took place inside the Grand Palace throne hall in Bangkok after a period of official mourning for his revered father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in October 2016 having reigned for 70 years.
The king sat on a golden throne under a nine-tiered umbrella to receive royal regalia including a gold-enameled, diamond-tipped crown in ceremonies that mixed glittering pomp with solemn religious rites.
The monarch was joined by new Queen Suthida after a surprise announcement three days before the coronation that the thrice-divorced monarch had married for a fourth time.
His coronation comes amid the uncertainty of an unresolved election battle between the current military junta chief and a “democratic front” trying to push the army out of politics.
“I shall continue, preserve, and build upon the royal legacy and shall reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the people forever,” the king said in his first royal command.
Prime Minister Theresa May could reach a Brexit deal with the opposition Labour Party within days, a leading Conservative Party figure said on Saturday, after senior ministers urged compromise following poor local election results.
Ruth Davidson, the Conservatives’ leader in Scotland, told party members that a cross-partisan agreement on Brexit was needed before this month’s European elections, or Britain’s major parties would face an even bigger backlash from voters.
The Conservatives lost 1,332 seats on English local councils that were up for re-election, and Labour - which would typically aim to gain hundreds of seats in a mid-term vote - instead lost 81.
Many voters expressed frustration at May’s failure to have taken Britain out of the European Union, almost three years after the country decided to leave in a referendum.
“If we thought yesterday’s results were a wake-up call, just wait for the European elections on the 23rd of May,” Davidson told a party conference in Aberdeen.
Anger over brazen corruption and weariness over the political status quo are widespread among the Panamanian electorate ahead of Sunday's vote to pick a successor to President Juan Carlos Varela, on whose watch Latin America's fastest growing economy cooled off significantly.
In what has been perhaps the shortest and least colorful campaign since Panama's transition to democracy three decades ago, most election talk has focused on government malfeasance following the massive leak of law firm documents in the Panama Papers and a regionwide scandal involving bribes paid by Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht.
The Odebrecht case "is particularly relevant in Panama in light of the Panama Papers," said Michael Shifter, president of the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue, alluding to the fact that many of the shell companies that became public through the leak from a Panamanian law firm were used to funnel bribes from the Brazilian company.
"Corruption becomes an even more important issue in the context of the country's recent sluggish economic performance," he continued. "Many Panamanians are fed up with the political class and have been disappointed by successive administrations."
The Trump administration is considering reversing long-standing policy to make it easier to deport U.S. legal permanent residents who have used public benefits, part of an effort to restrict immigration by low-income people. A Department of Justice draft regulation, seen by Reuters, dramatically expands the category of people who could be subject to deportation on the grounds that they use benefits.
Currently, those legal permanent residents who are declared to be a "public charge," or primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, can be deported - but in practice, this is very rare.
The draft regulation would use a more expansive definition to include some immigrants who have used an array of public benefits, including cash welfare, food stamps, housing aid, or Medicaid.
North Korea fired several “unidentified short-range projectiles” into the sea off its east coast on Saturday, prompting South Korea to call on its communist neighbour to “stop acts that escalate military tension on the Korean Peninsula”. The South Korean military initially described it as a missile launch, but subsequently gave a more vague description. The latest firing came after the North’s test of what it called a tactical guided weapons system in April.
Analysts suspected the flurry of military activity by Pyongyang was an attempt to exert pressure on the United States to give ground in negotiations to end the North’s nuclear programme after a summit in February ended in failure. South Korea’s presidency urged North Korea to refrain from further action in one of the most stiffly-worded statements since the two Koreas embarked on reconciliation efforts early last year.
“We are very concerned about the North’s latest action,” South Korea’s presidential spokeswoman said in the statement, adding that it violates an inter-Korean military agreement.
A white commercial farmer, Calvin William James, has evicted former liberation war heroine Mavis Rombedzayi's four children, from her Mazowe farm in Mashonaland Central, NewZimbabwe.com has learnt.
Efforts are currently underway to challenge the eviction although nothing has materialised, according to Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association district chairperson Efanos Mudzimunyi.
"Rombedzayi's children received an eviction order from the courts yet they did not know anything about a case against them. They did not even know what was happening when they were evicted."
Iran's envoy to the UN has denounced US attempts to portray Tehran's conventional missile program as a breach of Security Council Resolution 2231 that endorsed a 2015 nuclear deal, saying Washington must first explain why it has, itself, violated that international document by abandoning the landmark agreement.
Majid Takht-e Ravanchi said Thursday that American officials are after creating a negative atmosphere against Iran's missile work at the world body, reaffirming that Iran's missile activities are not inconsistent with Resolution 2231 contrary to what the US claims.
He added that a US State Department official has met with members of the UN Security Council and the world body's Secretariat about Iran's missile activities with the intention of promoting Washington's false allegations against Tehran
"Our stance is clear; [the issue] of our missiles does not fall at all within the framework of Resolution 2231," Takht-e Ravanchi stressed.
Russia's support for Venezuela's embattled President Nicolas Maduro has become the latest flashpoint in deteriorating relations between the United States and Russia, moving to the top of a list of long-simmering spats between the Cold War foes.
As the dispute intensifies with both sides trading accusations and entrenched in diametrically opposed positions from which they are unwilling to retreat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plans to meet Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov next week in Finland to discuss the matter.
A senior State Department official said Pompeo would use the opportunity of being at the same meeting of Arctic Council with Lavrov to express U.S. "concerns about Russian behavior." ''That includes Ukraine and certainly Venezuela," said the official, who was not authorized to discuss the meeting publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Washington has signed more than $1 billion in new missile contracts in the three months since it announced plans to withdraw from a key Cold War-era arms treaty, campaigners said Thursday.
“The withdrawal from the INF treaty has fired the starting pistol on a new Cold War,” warned Beatrice Fihn, who heads the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).
U.S. President Donald Trump announced last October that his country would leave the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) agreement concluded between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union in 1987. Washington, which accused Russia of violating the treaty through a new missile system, began the official process of withdrawing from the pact in February. Russian President Vladimir Putin responded by saying Moscow would also leave the INF treaty, which is considered the cornerstone of global arms control.
In the three months following the October announcement, the U.S. government “proceeded to arrange no less than $1 billion in new missile contracts,” according to a report by ICAN and another anti-nuclear campaign group, PAX.
The report detailed over $1.1 billion in new contracts with six mainly U.S. companies.
Russian and Syrian forces intensified air strikes and shelling in rebel-held northwestern Syria overnight, the heaviest assault since the area was declared a demilitarized zone under a Russian-Turkish deal, residents and medics said on Thursday. The targeted villages and towns in northern Hama and southern Idlib fall within a buffer zone agreed last September between Russia and Turkey as part of a deal which averted a major offensive on the area.
Schools, health facilities and residential areas have been hit, United Nations regional humanitarian coordinator Panos Moumtzis told Reuters on Thursday. “The barrel bombing is the worst we have seen for at least 15 months.”
He added that 300,000 people live in the buffer zone where there are hostilities. Earlier this week, the United States warned violence in the buffer zone “will result in the destabilisation of the region”.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has outdoored the Ghana Beyond Aid document which sets out the national plans and strategies of making the country self-reliant, without any form of external support. The document provides a roadmap to achieve the vision of building an economically independent country prosperous enough not to need aid, and competitive enough to engage with the rest of the world through trade and investment.
It contains strategies on how the country's resources can be harnessed effectively and deployed creatively and efficiently for rapid economic and social transformation. It also suggests how Ghanaians can break from the mentality of dependence and adopt a 'can do' spirit fuelled by love for the country.
President Akufo-Addo outdoored the document, which was developed by a committee chaired by the Senior Minister, Yaw Osafo Marfo, at the May Day (Workers' Day) celebration parade at the Independence Square in Accra.
The Ghana Beyond Aid Committee developed the document in consultation with 30 different institutions in academia, with inputs from the general public, and some Ghanaians in the diaspora.
Attorney General William Barr skipped a House hearing Thursday on special counsel Robert Mueller's Trump-Russia report, escalating an already acrimonious battle between Democrats and President Donald Trump's Justice Department. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested Barr had already lied to Congress in other testimony and called that a "crime."
Barr's decision to avoid the hearing, made after a disagreement with the House Judiciary Committee over questioning, came the day after the department also missed the committee's deadline to provide it with a full, unredacted version of Mueller's report and its underlying evidence. In all, it's likely to prompt a vote on holding Barr in contempt and possibly the issuance of subpoenas, bringing House Democrats and the Trump administration closer to a prolonged battle in court.
Democrats convened a short hearing that included an empty chair with a place card set for Barr. Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York said that if the attorney general doesn't provide the committee "with the information it demands and the respect that it deserves, Mr. Barr's moment of accountability will come soon enough."
English voters are expected to use local government elections on Thursday to punish Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party over its failure to deliver Brexit, revealing a divided and dissatisfied electorate.
More than 8,000 seats on English councils - administrative bodies responsible for day-to-day decisions on local policy ranging from education to waste management - are up for grabs in the first elections since Britain missed its March 29 Brexit date.
The results will paint a picture, albeit an imperfect one, of how that has affected support for May’s centre-right Conservative Party, and the leftist opposition Labour Party.
The Conservatives are forecast to lose hundreds of seats, and, according to one analysis, the final toll could top 1,000. Labour, which rejects May’s vision of Brexit but still supports leaving the bloc, are expected to make gains, as are the anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats.
For the third time this year, the big moment in Venezuela has turned into a bust. Trump administration officials had expected that Wednesday might turn out to be the beginning of the end for President Nicolas Maduro with senior government figures withdrawing support and the opposition launching a mass uprising with military backing. Or at least that's what the administration had been led to believe.
But the promised defections didn't happen, the military uprising never materialized and Maduro still appeared to be firmly in command of the South American nation. Trump officials were back to complaining about the support Venezuela receives from Cuba and Russia while issuing vague warnings of military action.
"Military action is possible," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview on Fox Business Network. "If that's what's required, that's what the United States will do."