Saturday, July 20, 2019

SUDAN POLICE FIRE TEAR GAS AS RALLIES HELD FOR 'MARTYRS'
The rallies came a day after protest leaders and army rulers inked a power-sharing deal to form a joint civilian-military body tasked with installing a civilian administration -- the main demand of demonstrators.

Sudanese protesters chant slogans and wave national flags as they march in the capital Khartoum's Green Square on 18 July 2019, as they honour comrades killed in the months-long protest movement that has rocked the country. Picture: AFP

AFP

KHARTOUM - Sudanese police fired tear gas Thursday as hundreds of demonstrators marched on a prominent Khartoum square to honour comrades killed in the months-long protest movement that has rocked the country.

The rallies came a day after protest leaders and army rulers inked a power-sharing deal to form a joint civilian-military body tasked with installing a civilian administration - the main demand of demonstrators.

Witnesses said men and women waving Sudanese flags marched from several parts of the capital towards the Green Yard, a prominent square.

As they marched, the demonstrators shouted slogans that have been the rallying cries of the uprising that led to the toppling in April of longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir: "Civilian rule, civilian rule!" and "Freedom, peace, justice!"

The marches were held in response to calls from a key protest group.

"The rallies are a tribute to those honourable martyrs of the December revolution," the Sudanese Professionals Association said in a statement.

Riot police fired tear gas to disperse a rally at a key bus station in downtown Khartoum, witnesses said.

"Protesters who were dispersed are trying to mobilise again and continue with the rally. It's like a game of cat and mouse between them," a witness told AFP from the capital's Jackson bus station.

One onlooker said that many who arrived at the Green Square were in tears as they chanted slogans remembering those killed in the protests.

The SPA spearheaded the initial campaign which erupted in December against the government of Bashir over its decision to triple the price of bread.

Those protests swiftly escalated into a nationwide movement that led to the army's overthrow of Bashir in April.

But protesters continued taking to the streets against the military council that took power in his place.

More than 200 people have been killed since December in protest-related violence, according to doctors close to the movement.

Tensions between the generals and protesters surged after a June 3 raid against a weeks-long Khartoum sit-in that left dozens of demonstrators dead.

On Wednesday, the protesters and generals finally agreed a deal paving the way to a transitional civilian administration that would govern for just over three years.

The talks, however, are set to continue Friday as the two sides push to resolve remaining issues.

A western troika of the United States, the United Kingdom and Norway, which have been involved in mediating the talks, welcomed the initialing of the deal and called for the formation of a civilian-led administration.

"We encourage the parties to quickly conclude the parallel constitutional agreement and form the civilian-led transitional government, which the Sudanese people have courageously and peacefully demanded since December 2018," they said in a joint statement.

"The troika looks forward to engaging a civilian-led transitional government as it works to achieve the Sudanese people's aspirations for responsive governance, peace, justice and development."
RAND RETREATS AS FED PENDULUM SWINGS BACK TO SOFT CUTS
At 1520 GMT the rand was 0.63% weaker at 13.9275 per dollar from a session-best of 13.8150 in early trade after momentum from a local rate cut on Thursday.

Reuters

JOHANNESBURG -The rand weakened on Friday, giving back some of the big gains from the previous session as expectations of an aggressive interest rate cut by the Federal Reserve cooled, prompting investors to pocket end-of-week profits.

At 1520 GMT the rand was 0.63% weaker at 13.9275 per dollar from a session-best of 13.8150 in early trade after momentum from a local rate cut on Thursday, seen as a boost to faltering economic growth had lured investors looking to shed long dollar positions.

The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) cut rates by 25 basis points to 6.5% in a unanimous decision on Thursday, although it struck a cautious tone suggesting future reductions to borrowing costs were not a foregone conclusion despite benign inflation.

On Friday the New York Federal Reserve walked back dovish comments from its president the prior day saying pre-emptive measures were needed to avoid too-low inflation and interest rates.

A New York Fed representative said New York Fed President John Williams’ comments were not about immediate policy direction, dragging the greenback back from a two-week low. At 1520 the dollar measured against a basket of currencies was 0.37% firmer.

The US central bank decides on rates on 31 July.

Bonds also weakened, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year government issue adding 4.5 basis points to 8.02%.

On the bourse, stocks rose along with emerging market shares and currencies after comments from a top Federal Reserve official reinforced expectations of a US interest rate cut this month, stoking demand for riskier assets.

The benchmark Johannesburg Stock Exchange Top-40 Index was up 0.72% at 52,107.18 points while the broader All-Share Index closed 0.65% higher at 58,248 points.

Musa Makoni, GT247 trader, said trades were firmer earlier in day, following the trend in Asia, with stocks in Europe and the US also on the up.

He also highlighted the performance of Pioneer Food Group, which shot up 32.09% to R101.35 after it was bought by PepsiCo for $1.7 billion dollars. Shares in agribusiness investment company Zeder Investments, which holds Pioneer as part of its portfolio, also rose 23.17%.

Other blue-chip winners of the day include mining company Gold Fields which rose 2.97% and services, trading and distribution company Bidvest which was up 2.83%.
JANET JACKSON IN SAUDI CONCERT BOYCOTTED BY NICKI MINAJ
A cheering crowd danced to the thumping music at Jeddah World Fest, hosted in the Red Sea city of western Saudi Arabia.

Janet Jackson performs at the 2018 MTV European Music Awards. Picture: @mtvema/Twitter

AFP

NEWYORK – Janet Jackson, 50 Cent and Chris Brown were among artists who performed Thursday at a concert in Saudi Arabia that rapper Nicki Minaj pulled out of citing human rights concerns.

A cheering crowd danced to the thumping music at Jeddah World Fest, hosted in the Red Sea city of western Saudi Arabia.

Such scenes, unimaginable just two years ago, reflect how the ultra-conservative Islamic kingdom is easing decades-old restrictions on entertainment.

Minaj - well-known for her provocative, profanity-laced lyrics and skin-baring music videos - pulled out of headlining the concert in a show of solidarity for women's and gay rights in the ultra-conservative Islamic kingdom.

The cancellation triggered a social media storm, with many fans in the kingdom voicing disappointment and demanding ticket refunds.

The singer insisted on Twitter that her decision was not intended to "disrespect" the Saudi government.

The announcement of her performance had prompted an online backlash from arch-conservatives as the kingdom pursues a contentious liberalisation drive.

Citing unnamed sources, a few Saudi media outlets including the pro-government Okaz newspaper insisted it was the kingdom that cancelled her show, as it went against local "customs and values".

The country has faced intense international scrutiny over its human rights record since last year's killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul and the ongoing trial of women activists.

The Human Rights Foundation has urged artists not to perform in the kingdom.

"It's clear that, after losing Nicki Minaj on the basis of the Saudi regime's atrocious human rights record and their treatment of women and the gay community, Crown Prince (Mohammed bin Salman) has chosen to spend whatever it takes to give the appearance that things are normal and that this is just another concert," HRF president Thor Halvorssen said in a statement.

"Except it isn't."

Saudi Arabia is boosting entertainment for its citizens to have fun, in what some see as an attempt to blunt public frustration over an economic downturn and high youth unemployment.

The country's General Entertainment Authority said it plans to pump $64 billion into the sector in the coming decade.

But some acts have fuelled anger in a country still steeped in conservatism.
SAUDI ARABIA HAS DECIDED TO HOST US TROOPS: SAUDI DEFENSE MINISTRY
Saudi Arabia has not hosted US forces since 2003 when they withdrew following the end of the war with Iraq.

US Army troops in Adhamiya, Iraq. Picture: US Army Facebook page/Sgt. Jeffrey Alexander

AFP

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Saudi Arabia has decided to host US troops in a joint move with Washington to boost regional security, the kingdom's defence ministry said, as tensions soar in the Gulf.

"Based on mutual cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the United States of America, and their desire to enhance everything that could preserve the security of the region and its stability... King Salman gave his approval to host American forces," a ministry spokesman was quoted by Saudi state news agency SPA as saying.

Saudi Arabia has not hosted US forces since 2003 when they withdrew following the end of the war with Iraq.

The US presence in Saudi Arabia lasted 12 years, starting with Operation Desert Storm in 1991, when Iraq invaded Kuwait.

As many as 200 US aircraft were stationed at the Prince Sultan air base situated around 80 kilometres south of the capital at the peak of the Iraq war, and as many as 2,700 missions a day were handled by the headquarters in Saudi Arabia.

But relations between the two countries were not always easy during the 12 years of cooperation, particularly following the 11 September, 2001 attacks in New York which were orchestrated by Saudi-born al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Tensions in the Gulf increased further on Friday as Iran said it had confiscated a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz and as US President Donald Trump insisted that the US military had downed an Iranian drone that was threatening a US naval vessel, despite denials from Tehran.
US CONGRESS BLOCKS SAUDI ARMS SALES IN REBUKE TO TRUMP
Lawmakers approved three resolutions that would prevent the controversial sales announced under emergency measures earlier this year by Trump.

FILE: US President Donald Trump participates in a Cabinet meeting at the White House on 16 July 2019 in Washington,DC. Picture: AFP

AFP

WASHINGTON - The US House voted Wednesday to block $8.1 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other allies, a rebuke of Donald Trump that will likely lead to a veto by the president.

Lawmakers, many of whom are outraged with the kingdom over Riyadh's role in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year, approved three resolutions that would prevent the controversial sales announced under emergency measures earlier this year by Trump.

The resolutions blocking the sales have already cleared the US Senate and now go to the White House, where Trump is expected to issue the third veto of his presidency.

While the House blocked the sales with a comfortable majority, it was about 50 votes shy of the two-thirds needed to override Trump's veto.

Trump is seeking 22 separate sales of aircraft support maintenance, precision-guided munitions and other weapons and equipment to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan at a moment of heightened tensions in the Middle East.

Critics say the arms sales would aggravate the devastating war in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is leading a US-backed coalition in a battle against the Iranian-supported Huthi rebels, and which the UN said has triggered the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

"When we see what's going on in Yemen, it's so important for the United States to take a stand," House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Eliot Engel said on the House floor.

The veteran Democrat concurred that the threats from the Iranian-backed Huthis were real, "but that doesn't mean we should just look the other way in the face of violence and the slaughter of civilians."

Trump's administration took the extraordinary step of bypassing Congress to approve the sale in May, as his administration declared Iran to be a "fundamental threat" to the stability of the Middle East.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said the administration was responding to an emergency caused by Saudi Arabia's arch-foe Iran.

But lawmakers including some Senate Republicans said there were no legitimate grounds to circumvent Congress, which has the right to disapprove arms sales.

'SIGNAL TO SAUDI ARABIA'

Last month Senator Lindsey Graham delivered a stinging rebuke of the arms sales and Riyadh, saying he hoped the vote would "send a signal to Saudi Arabia that if you act the way you're acting, there is no space for a strategic relationship."

The senator was referring to last year's brutal murder of Khashoggi in Turkey at the hands of Saudi agents, an incident that triggered a full-blown crisis in Riyadh's relations with the West.

But Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, criticized the resolutions as "dangerous" at a time Iran is expanding its reach.

"Iran is stretching its tentacles of terror across the Middle East," he said in a statement.

"If we allow them to succeed, terrorism will flourish, instability will reign, and the security of our allies, like Israel, will be threatened," he added.

In a move that would bolster its support for Riyadh and serve as a show of force to Iran, the Trump administration plans to send 500 troops to Saudi Arabia, CNN reported late Wednesday.

The troops will go to the Prince Sultan Air Base, east of Riyadh, CNN reported, citing two officials at the Defense Department.

The move comes after the US announced in May that it was deploying 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East to counter "credible threats" from Iran.

Friday, July 19, 2019

FORMER PRESIDENT ZUMA TO PROVIDE WRITTEN STATEMENTS ON AREAS OF INTEREST IN STATE CAPTURE PROBE
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said former President Jacob Zuma would provide written statements and return to the inquiry at a date yet to be determined.

Former President Jacob Zuma at the state capture commission on 19 July 2019. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN

Theto Mahlakoana & Bonga Dlulane
Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - It appeared that the dramatic events at the state capture commission on Friday could have been avoided had Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo been appraised of the legal teams’ deadlock on time.

Zondo decried how he was blindsided by the legal minds after their failure to inform him of their disagreement.

That impasse saw former President Jacob Zuma briefly withdraw his participation in the commission.

The animosity between Zuma’s legal counsel and the commission’s evidence leader Paul Pretorius has been glaring since his first appearance on Monday.

Things took a turn for the worst on Wednesday when Zuma complained he was being dealt with unfairly, forcing Zondo to order the legal teams to confer until a solution was found.

But when they could not agree, Zondo was not informed. “I was still waiting to be informed by the two legal teams.”

The chair, along with everyone else, was caught off guard and only found out on Friday morning that Zuma wanted to pull out of the commission, much to his disappointment.

Nonetheless, all it took to resolve the impasse was an instruction from Zondo that the parties meet in his chambers, a discussion that he said took 10 minutes to resolve the dispute.

“There was really no difficulty in finding a solution once I met with both teams.”

Before that, Zuma’s legal counsel had accused the commission of engaging in a quasi-litigation, warning that there was something wrong with the proceedings.

Zuma to continue testifying at Zondo inquiry

Zondo added that Zuma would provide written statements on areas of interest for the inquiry's legal team and return to the inquiry at a date yet to be determined.

“The discussions have resulted in an agreement that the decision that the decision that the former president will no longer participate in proceedings is withdrawn and that the former president has indicated that he wishes to continue to cooperate.”

Zuma said he would return to the inquiry when required.

There was an expectation that the former president’s appearance at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry would be eventful, and so it was, with the former president pulling out all the stops on Friday.

When given a chance to address the commission, Zuma said he was happy that the proceedings could move forward after his lawyers and the commission’s counsel discussed his concerns Zondo’s chambers.

The inquiry chairperson gave the legal counsel for Zuma and the commission two weeks to work out a way forward after reaching an agreement on how Zuma would be treated.

SUPPORTERS

Zuma addressed his supporters outside the commission after proceedings on Friday, where he said the inquiry was a set up to punish him.

He has also lashed out at Former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela for unfairly targeting him.

Zuma was adamant that he was living in fear after uncovering a number of threats against his life.

He said if he was continually provoked, he would name and shame those who wanted to take him out.

But for now, he said he would not name the conspirators. The former president said at the right moment, he would reveal all the evidence he had collected on the alleged attempts.
Al-Jaafari: Policies of Some States Based on Imposing Unilateral Coercive Measures on Syria Obstruct Implementing Sustainable Development Agenda
19 July، 2019

New York, SANA – Syria’s Permanent Representative to the UN Bashar al-Jaafari said policies of some governments based on imposing unilateral coercive measures on Syria, hindering the reconstruction process, supporting and financing terrorism and protecting the Israeli occupation in the occupied Syrian Golan and ignoring its acts obstruct the implementation of the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030.

In a speech before the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development and High-Level Meeting of the Economic and Social Council, al-Jaafari said that Syria still believes that empowering people, inclusiveness, equality and reaching sustainable solutions to our daily challenges require focus on creating just opportunities through the international and UN approach based building real trust among governments and mutual respect of national sovereignty.

He added that the first national report for sustainable development, accomplished and published in April, 2019, is to form the fundamental step for preparing the subsequent national plans and reports in the scope of implementing the 2030 Agenda and launching the developmental process as a cornerstone for recovery from the impacts of the terrorism war that the country has faced.

“Four years for adopting 2030 Agenda, we witness a tendency by some international parties towards selectiveness with the aim of undermining or ignoring fundamental principles and objectives in the Agenda, which threatens the agreement reached when adopted.” He continued to say.

R. Milhem
Syria Army Destroys Rocket Launchers and Camps for Foreign Terrorists in Idleb Countryside
19 July، 2019

Idleb/Hama, SANA – Syrian Arab Army units on Friday destroyed rocket launchers, bases, and training camps for foreign terrorists in Idleb’s countryside, in addition to targeting terrorists in Hama countryside.

SANA’s reporter said the army targeted with artillery and rocket fire bases and gatherings of Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, destroying fortified positions and bases, leaving a number of terrorists dead and injuring others.

The reporter said the army also targeted training camps and bases for terrorists from al-Nusra and the “Turkistani Party” in Jisr al-Shughour southwest of Idleb city near the northeastern countryside of Lattakia, destroying camps for training terrorists, many of them foreigners.

In Hama’s northern countryside, army units targeted terrorists in the towns of Kafr Zeta, al-Latamneh, and al-Zakat, killing a number of them and destroying their vehciles.

Hazem Sabbagh
A Number of Martyrs in a Terrorist Attack Against a Military Car in Daraa
17 July، 2019

Daraa, SANA-Terrorists targeted a military car on al-Yadouda Road, west of Daraa City as a number of army personnel were martyred and others were injured.

SANA reporter in Daraa said that terrorists on Wednesday morning targeted a military car on the road leading to al-Yadouda town, west of Daraa city as a number of army personnel were martyred and others were injured and they were rushed to the national hospital in Daraa City to receive the required treatment.

On July 13th, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that a military that a terrorist attack targeted a patrol of the Russian military police with an explosive device in Daraa countryside and no causalities were reported among the Russian service members.

Ruaa al-Jazaeri
Lavrov: Need for Finding a Political Solution to Crisis in Syria According to UN Resolution 2254
18 July، 2019

Bonn, SANA-Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov affirmed that his country is going ahead in its efforts to reach a political solution to the crisis in Syria in light of Astana formula and UN resolution 2254.

Lavrov said at a press conference with his German counterpart, Heiko Maas, “Regarding Syria, we have briefed the German side on our efforts, along with Iran and Turkey, through Astana formula and UN resolution 2254, including humanitarian aids and the comprehensive settlement process and dialogue.”

UNSC resolution 2254 of December 2015 underlines that the Syrians are the only ones who determine the future of their country without any foreign intervention.

Mazen
IRGC Says Captures British Oil Tanker in Strait of Hormuz
Sat Jul 20, 2019 02:33AM
presstv.ir

The British-flagged Stena Impero vessel (file photo)

Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has said that it has captured a British oil tanker for breaching international maritime law while crossing the Strait of Hormuz.

The IRGC’s Public Relations Department said in a statement on Friday that the vessel named “Stena Impero” had been impounded “at the request of Hormozgan Ports and Maritime Organization when passing through the Strait of Hormuz, for failing to respect international maritime rules.”

The oil tanker was transferred to the coast to undergo the required legal proceedings, the statement added.

The Northern Marine Management, which owns the Stena Impero, has said the vessel carried 23 crew members.

"Northern Marine Management has not been able to establish contact directly with the vessel since it was notified of the incident at approximately 1600 Today, 19th July 2019," it said in a statement.

Speaking later with Iran's official news agency, IRNA, an unnamed military official informed on the matter said the ship had breached international maritime regulations by passing through a prohibited maritime passage in the Strait, turning off its tracking signals and ignoring warnings issued by Iranian authorities.

"The tanker had turned off its tracker and ignored several warnings by the IRGC before being impounded," the source told IRNA.

Head of the Ports and Maritime Organization of Hormozgan province told Press TV the body found that the British tanker failed to respond to a distress call by an accident-hit Iranian fishing boat as it had switched off its trackers.

The IRGC forces patrolling the area were then called on to escort the tanker to a place where the organization can investigate the issue, he added.

An informed official from Iran's Ports and Maritime Organization said that in addition to the previously-stated infractions, the vessel had also been "releasing oil residue from its tankers in the Persian Gulf".

The unnamed Iranian maritime official stressed that the ship's numerous infringements counted as a violation of the concept of "innocent passage," referring to a maritime law related to the passage of vessels through the territorial waters of another state.

The British government has adjourned a major emergency cabinet meeting with COBRA officials present to assess the developments.

Meanwhile, Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that a second vessel was also impounded. He described the capture of both tankers as "unacceptable".

But later on, informed Iranian military sources said the second British-owned Liberian-flagged tanker, the Mesdar, was allowed to continue its pre-scheduled course after "being briefed on the concept of innocent passage and observing environmental regulations”.
Iran’s Zarif Says US Will Get Nowhere With Its Excessive Demands
Sat Jul 20, 2019 02:36AM
presstv.ir

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (file photo)

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says the United States “will get nowhere with its excessive demands” from Tehran, stressing that the Islamic Republic’s landmark 2015 nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has been “a rational agreement.”

Iran’s top diplomat made the remarks at a press conference shortly before leaving Washington for the Venezuelan capital Caracas on Friday, reacting to US President Donald Trump’s recent calls for the suspension of Iran’s uranium enrichment and concluding a 100-year agreement with the country.

“These remarks indicate that the JCPOA is a rational agreement,” Zarif said.

The accord was signed in Vienna in July 2015 between the Islamic Republic and the P5+1 group of countries comprising the United States, the UK, France, Russia, China, plus Germany. The JCPOA lifted nuclear-related sanctions against Iran in return for the country’s voluntarily changing some aspects of its nuclear energy program.

The US, however, unilaterally left the JCPOA last year in defiance of international criticism and although the deal has been ratified as a United Nations Security Council resolution. Washington also returned its anti-Iran sanctions in a move condemned by the Islamic Republic as “economic terrorism.”

“Those who say these non-rational things to Trump should also say that in the early 2000s, when they argued in favor of zero-enrichment policy against Iran and prevented an agreement between Iran and the European Union, Iran's level of enrichment increased to more than 100 times,” Zarif further said.

“If Trump wants to try his chance with this wrong move, he will be our guest,” he added.

Iran has already increased the level of its uranium enrichment to 4.5 percent, which is beyond the limit set by the JCPOA. The move was part of the second phase of the country’s May 8 decision to reduce its commitments under the nuclear deal in reaction to the US violations and Europe’s inaction.

After Iran complained about the European countries' capitulation to US unilateralism against the Islamic Republic and their failure to keep up their trade with Tehran as required by the JCPOA due to the US sanctions, Britain, France, and Germany in January announced the establishment of a mechanism aimed at enabling non-dollar trade between the 28-nation bloc and Iran, officially called the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX).

The apparatus is supposed to circumvent the sanctions that the United States began re-imposing against Iran after leaving the 2015 nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic, the E3, and Russia and China.

Touching upon INSTEX, Zarif also said that Iran has repeatedly made it clear that "INSTEX is a prelude to the EU's implementation of its commitments.”

He also said that if the Europeans were willing to take necessary measures to save the JCPOA, they should operationalize INSTEX.

“The Europeans repeatedly made 11 commitments after the pullout of the US from the deal, plus their own obligations under Annex 2 of the JCPOA; INSTEXm -- itself not an obligation --  is required for those commitments to be carried out,” Iran’s top diplomat said.

“We are waiting for the Europeans to fulfill their commitments, including ensuring oil sales, shipping, banking and investment as well as scientific cooperation,” Zarif added.

NAM summit in Venezuela

On his trip to Latin America, Zarif added that he would participate in a Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Venezuela.

“Of course, I will use the opportunity to hold talks with the Venezuelan officials on the economic cooperation between the two sides, and on how the Islamic Republic can help restore peace to the country," he said.

“In Nicaragua and Bolivia, we will discuss political and economic cooperation. We have very good friends in South and Latin America, and these countries are political and economic partners of the Islamic Republic,” Zarif further noted.

Separately on Friday, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said Zarif has traveled to Venezuela to take part in a NAM summit, but “unfortunately, US officials are using every opportunity to spread propaganda and distort the reality.”

His remarks came in response to comments made by US Vice President Mike Pence, who on Thursday accused Iran of extending its "destabilizing activities extend well beyond the Middle East."

Thousands of Venezuelans have taken to the streets in Caracas to protest against a recent United Nations report on the country’s human rights situation.

Venezuela plunged into political crisis in January, when US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido abruptly proclaimed himself “interim president.” The elected government of President Nicolas Maduro has rejected the self-proclamation, but it has been negotiating with Guaido’s representatives to resolve the political crisis in the country.

Washington has levied several rounds of sanctions against Venezuela to oust Maduro and replace him with Guaido. It has also confiscated Venezuela’s state oil assets based in the US to channel them to Guaido.

Guaido orchestrated a failed coup against the government on April 30 with backing from Washington. Maduro’s government, however, has not proceeded to arrest Guaido despite the coup attempt.
IRGC Releases Drone Footage, Belying US Claim of Downing
Fri Jul 19, 2019 05:26PM
presstv.ir

Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has released footage captured by an Iranian drone flying over the Strait of Hormuz and monitoring a United States Navy vessel, belying a claim by Washington that the unmanned aircraft was shot down by the American forces.

The IRGC’s Public Relations Department said Friday that the footage had been released with the aim of exposing Washington’s “lies.”

US President Donald Trump claimed on Thursday that the drone had been shot down after it flew to within 900 meters the US navy’s USS Boxer amphibious assault ship and ignored “multiple calls to stand down.”

Later, the Pentagon claimed the warship had taken “defensive action” against an Iranian drone at 10 a.m. local time (0530 GMT) on Thursday.

This still obtained from IRGC footage and captioned in Persian language highlights 11:44 a.m., the time of the Iranian drone’s surveillance operation in local time.

The IRGC said the American warships had been “fully and precisely” monitored for three hours, from the moment they entered the Strait of Hormuz, and that the Corps’ drone bases had detected and recorded “no unconventional and threatening action” by the US forces on the USS Boxer accompanied by five vessels during that period.

In an earlier statement, which the IRGC had released to announce its plan to release the footage, the elite force said the Iranian drone had successfully transmitted pictures of the US warship before and even after the time when the Americans claim they shot down the unmanned aerial aircraft (UAV), and then returned to its base safe and sound.

The statement described Washington’s claim as “ridiculous.”
Environment Damage Inflicts Billions in Losses on Iran’s Economy: Study
Fri Jul 19, 2019 05:10PM
presstv.ir

This undated image by IRNA agency shows a woman walking in the Bakhtegan Lake, located in the southern Iranian province of Fars, which is now dry allegedly as a result of dams built on rivers leading to the watershed.

A study carried out by the Iranian parliament alleges that the Iranian economy suffers billions in losses each year over the damage inflicted on the environment.

An excerpt of the results of the study published in the official IRNA agency on Friday showed that the current losses caused by a lack of proper care for protection of environment in Iran would be much higher than a total of $8.5 billion reported in 2002 by the World Bank.

The study said more than $500 million has been lost as a result of drought in Bakhtegan Lake in southern Iranian province of Fars where environment activists insist the government has been wrong to build dams on the rivers leading to the watershed.

The report, titled “A Comparative Study of Environment Economy from Legislative and Supervisory Perspectives” said Iran still lacked a proper mechanism to evaluate the costs of environment damage.

“Only the damage inflicted on Tashk (lake) and Bakhtegan watershed has been around $503 million, equivalent to 0.05 percent of Iran’s GDP in 2013,” said the report, adding that the economic loss related to the environment sector has potentially increased over the past years.

Iranian judiciary chief echoes concerns that Paris deal on climate change could harm Iran’s interests.
The study further elaborated that lack of care for environment has caused a rise in the number of premature deaths and cancers in Iran, saying the cost of health care provided to the people affected by change of the climate in the country is jumping high.

Iran has yet to ratify a major international agreement on climate change and environment protection signed in Paris in 2015.

Authorities have declared that they have reservations on endorsing the agreement due to its potential impacts on energy security in Iran. However, they have insisted that the government should do more as part of its own efforts to protect the environment.
China Blasts US for Banning Firms Allegedly Linked to Iran
Fri Jul 19, 2019 06:12PM
presstv.ir

This file photo shows Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) shaking hands with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, after a joint press conference in Beijing, China, on December 5, 2016. (By AFP)

China has slammed the United States’ recent move to impose sanctions on Chinese firms over the allegation that they are linked to the Iranian nuclear energy program.

“We urge the US to immediately correct this wrong practice and earnestly respect the legitimate rights and interests of all parties,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a Friday press briefing.

Geng made the comments a day after the US Treasury Department announced new sanctions targeting Iranian, Belgian, and Chinese companies for allegedly serving as “procurement network” for Iran’s nuclear energy program.

Geng said Washington’s campaign of “extreme pressure” against Tehran through sanctions and the policy of “long-arm jurisdiction” was the “root cause” of heightening tensions between the US and Iran.

The US, which has withdrawn from an international pact with Iran, has been imposing unilateral sanctions both on Tehran and third countries that do business with it since the withdrawal in May 2018.

The European Union, practically a party to that deal, and Russia and China — two other signatories — have condemned the US practice of attempting to apply its domestic jurisdiction outside of its territory.

Speaking earlier this week, US Senator Lindsey Graham said the European countries that continue to trade with Iran and refuse to join America’s pressure campaign against Tehran should be sanctioned “to the ground.”

Meanwhile, the European countries have been making efforts to fully operationalize a trade vehicle that secures their transactions with Iran against US sabotage in a global economy dominated by the US dollar.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Zimbabwe President Challenges Local Authorities
19 JUL, 2019 - 00:07

President Mnangagwa poses for a photograph with Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister July Moyo (front row, left), Association of Rural District Councils of Zimbabwe (ARDCZ) president Mr David Mutasa (front row, right) and other delegates at the Rural District Council Chairpersons Conference in Victoria Falls yesterday.— (Picture by Dennis Mudzamiri)

Blessings Chidakwa and Leonard Ncube in VICTORIA FALLS
Herald

Local authorities should be economic hubs with a transformative impact on the quality of life in communities and the nation as the country seeks to achieve upper middle income economy status by the year 2030, the President has said.

He said local authorities have more sources of revenue collection that are untapped and challenged them to be more creative as central Government’s attention will be on such councils and not crybabies.

President Mnangagwa said this while officially opening the third edition of the Rural District Councils Chairpersons’ indaba here, where he implored RDCs to deliver as they have the capacity to make Vision 2030 succeed or fail.

“We at the national level have interrogated this vision but it cannot succeed without the other tiers of Government, which primarily include yourselves (RDCs). We must all recognise that every one of us at every level is critical for the success of our vision.

“This platform is thus important as it provides us with the opportunity to interrogate and reflect on issues related to equitable and inclusive growth, harnessing the resource endowments within our respective communities,” he said.

President Mnangagwa said the majority of the country’s citizens lived in the rural areas and eagerly anticipated socio-economic development to cascade into their societies.

“As leaders who preside over these communities you should be at the forefront of crafting innovative strategies which stimulate production, value addition and beneficiation of resources in the areas under your jurisdiction.

“We need you to focus on the resources available in your districts. As RDCs when we speak of devolution we have you in mind. My Government will continue to support local authorities through policy guidance, financial and non-financial support, capacity building and technical back-up to improve efficiencies within your sector,” he said.

The President reiterated his call for every citizen to participate in building the economy, saying no one should be left behind even at household level.

He challenged Ministers of State in every province to be pro-active in the devolution agenda saying they should be the ones leading in project identification.

He also said in line with the new culture of dialogue there was need for increased collaboration, coordination and cooperation between RDC and their internal and external stakeholders.

“It is equally important for RDCs to network and share best practices among themselves and with their counterparts in urban councils.

“Better service delivery and the speedy improvement in the quality of life our people will be enhanced by such robust engagement within the sector, coupled with listening to the needs and perspectives of the communities we serve.”

The Head of State and Government also warned those engaging in corrupt activities to cease as he had given “teeth” to the new anti-corruption commissioners that were recently sworn in.

“Please all citizens be warned that acts of corruption will not be condoned or tolerated, l have created ‘teeth’ for the new team,” he said.

The President also reassured the nation that his Government will avail food to all deficient communities following the drought that affected the country this year.

The President said Cyclone Idai had opened their eyes to the new threats associated with climate change and need to re-think on disaster preparedness and response mechanisms.

RDCs association president Alderman David Mutasa applauded President Mnangagwa for accepting to interact with RDCs at the high level platform, as this was the first time since 2013.

He said under President Mnagwagwa’s leadership Zimbabwe was in safe hands and would easily achieve Vision 2030.
Zimbabwe Government, Civil Servants Strike Deal
19 JUL, 2019 - 00:07
Africa Moyo
Deputy News Editor
Herald

GOVERNMENT has reached an agreement with its workers which will see civil servants getting an equivalent of 50 percent of their salaries as a once-off cushioning allowance this month.

Further, engagements for a cost of living adjustment to cater for the period August to December will continue.

Civil servants’ representatives hailed President Mnangagwa’s tireless efforts to address challenges faced by workers in the wake of  recent increases in the cost of goods and services.

Last night, the Apex Council corroborated in a statement that an agreement had been reached, adding that each civil servant would get $400 as a “once-off payment together with the salary of July regardless of one’s grade”.

Secretary to the Public Service Commission Ambassador Jonathan Wutawunashe also confirmed the development.

This follows another pact sealed between the Government and health workers.

Government is now left with concluding cushioning allowance negotiations for the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

A draft statement of the National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC) meeting held yesterday at Kaguvi Building in Harare yesterday, seen by The Herald last night, confirms that an agreement was reached.

Reads the draft statement in part: “Government and its workers held a National Joint Negotiating Council meeting on 18 July 2019, where an agreement was reached to pay a cushioning allowance to all civil servants to provide relief from the harsh economic environment.

“The cushioning allowance will be extended as a once-off payment for the month of July 2019.”

Despite the agreement on a cushioning allowance, Government is continuing to negotiate a cost of living adjustment which will further cushion civil servants from economic vagaries.

The draft statement confirms that “negotiations are continuing on a cost of living adjustment (COLA) to further cushion civil servants for the remaining five months from August to December 2019”.

“The workers appreciated the gesture by His Excellency President E.D. Mnangagwa in response to their plight, an intervention made in spite of tight fiscal constraints,” reads the statement.

Government has indicated that it remains committed to improving the welfare of its workers despite a tight fiscal environment.
RAMAPHOSA: I AM READY TO TESTIFY AT ZONDO COMMISSION
President Cyril Ramaphosa told Parliament that nobody was above the law and that that includes himself, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and EFF leader Julius Malema.

President Cyril Ramaphosa in Parliament on 17 July 2019. Picture: @PresidencyZA/Twitter

Gaye Davis
Eyewitness News

CAPE TOWN - President Cyril Ramaphosa said he was ready and willing to testify before the Zondo Commission of inquiry into state capture.

Ramaphosa told Parliament that nobody was above the law and that that includes himself, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and EFF leader Julius Malema.

Replying to debate on the Presidency budget vote in Parliament, Ramaphosa added that he was not in a position to express a view on the Public Protector's findings against Gordhan, as the matter was before the courts.

Ramaphosa said: “I have stated publicly on several occasions and in replies to parliamentary questions, that I am available and ready to testify before the Zondo Commission. This I am able and willing to do, and it is an affirmation that I reiterate here today before this house.”

Ramaphosa also responded to Julius Malema’s attack on him over Gordhan.

“No person, no matter what position they hold, is above the law. No person is above scrutiny, every person must answer for their actions. That includes the president, that includes honourable Gordhan and that includes even honourable Malema.

“By the same measure, everyone is equal before the law and must have recourse to the law. Every person must be able to enforce their rights, whether that means approaching the courts or any other competent authority.”

Ramaphosa described Gordhan as a person of “commitment and integrity”. He added that the Public Enterprises minister was “under extreme pressure”.
MAPAILA LASHES ZUMA OVER STATE CAPTURE INQUIRY CLAIMS
The SACP's Solly Mapaila said they were calling on all South Africans to defend Mandela’s legacy against those who seek to destroy it.

FILE: South African Communist Party's Solly Mapaila. Picture: Sethembiso Zulu/EWN

Bonga Dlulane
Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation and South African Communist Party (SACP) on Thursday said Nelson Mandela's legacy was being threatened by state capture.

Speaking on Mandela Day, the SACP’s first deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila lashed out at former President Jacob Zuma for his claims at the state capture inquiry.

Mapaila said they were calling on all South Africans to defend Mandela’s legacy against those who seek to destroy it.

Multiple organisations have come together to launch a campaign called Hands Off Our Democracy on this Mandela Day.

Among them was Mapaila, who has come out strongly to condemn Zuma’s claims that some members of the African National Congress were in cahoots with the apartheid regime.

“It was quite unfair for him to, for whatever reason, to even appoint these comrades as ministers in his Cabinet when he knew all along that they were spies.”

Mapaila also lashed out at Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane for what he called an attack on Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.

“If we allow someone like Pravin Gordhan to fall, all of us will fall one by one. Corruption will never be defeated.”

The party said it was calling on South Africans to join them in their fight against those who want to capture the state through corruption.
ZUMA TO CONTINUE HIS TESTIMONY AT ZONDO COMMISSION
The Zondo Commission of inquiry into state capture has confirmed that former President Jacob Zuma will continue with his testimony on Friday.

Former President Jacob Zuma at the state capture commission on 17 July 2019. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN

Bonga Dlulane
Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - The Zondo Commission of inquiry into state capture said that proceedings would resume on Friday with former President Jacob Zuma expected to attend.

The commission adjourned on Wednesday after Zuma's lawyers considered withdrawing.

His legal team was not happy with the line of questioning by the legal team, saying that Zuma was being cross-examined and expected to recall details from a long time ago.

Following an abrupt ending on Wednesday, Zuma will be back at the state capture inquiry.

The former president's lawyers halted proceedings on Wednesday accusing the commission of bringing Zuma there under false pretenses.

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo adjourned proceedings until Friday to allow the legal teams to iron out the impasse.

Zuma said he believed that the commission was established to target him and tarnish his reputation.

The hearing will resume at 10am tomorrow.
Trump Says He Was "Not Happy" About "Send Her Back" Rally Chant
BY KATHRYN WATSON, MAJOR GARRETT
JULY 18, 2019 / 6:12 PM
CBS NEWS

President Trump on Thursday insisted he was "not happy" with his supporters' chant to "send her home," referring to Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar. Mr. Trump, who did nothing to quiet the chant at his rally in Greenville, North Carolina, Wednesday night, claimed Thursday he thought he had. Mr. Trump made the remarks in the Oval Office during a meeting with members of Team USA for the 2019 Special Olympics World Games.

Asked why he didn't stop the chant, Mr. Trump said, "I think I did — I started speaking very quickly."

The president added, "I was not happy with it — I disagreed with it."

Video of the rally, however, does not show the president making any visible or audible attempts to interject and halt his supporters. Video of the rally shows the president pausing as the crowd chants.

Asked if he would try to stop such chants the next time, Mr. Trump told reporters he would "certainly try."

Mr. Trump began the controversy over the weekend with a series of racist tweets that congresswomen should "go back" to their countries. Mr. Trump has since defended that tweet, claiming it was not racist.

The president heard from multiple voices on the chant situation Thursday. Those who counseled that the president moderate his position or leave the impression he was unhappy included First Lady Melania Trump, Ivanka Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel.

The president considered the advice during the morning and weighed the possible downside of appearing to apologize or give in - something his supporters might dislike - before deciding to relent and back away from the chants publicly.

Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.
TRUMP DID NOTHING WHEN SUPPORTERS CHANTED 'SEND HER BACK.' THE NEXT DAY HE SAID HE 'WAS NOT HAPPY.'
President Donald Trump said Thursday he was unhappy with his supporters chanting “send her back” after he assailed a young Democratic congresswoman who he’s suggested should leave the U.S.

BY ALAN FRAM
AP
JULY 18, 2019 2:20 PM ET

(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump said Thursday he was unhappy with his supporters chanting “send her back” after he assailed a young Democratic congresswoman who he’s suggested should leave the U.S.

Speaking in the Oval Office, Trump claimed he tried to stop the chant, which came after he recited a litany of complaints about Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who fled to the U.S. as a child with her family from violence-wracked Somalia. Video shows the president pausing his remarks, appearing to drink in the uproar and not admonishing his supporters as they chanted.

“I was not happy with it,” Trump said a day later as some prominent Republicans criticized the chant at the president’s re-election event. He said he “would certainly try” to stop the chant should it return at a subsequent rally.

So far, no GOP lawmakers are directly taking on Trump over the episode.

The muted reactions by congressional Republicans followed a pattern that’s become familiar after numerous incidents in Trump’s presidency when he’s made antagonistic or racially provocative comments.

At the Wednesday campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina, Trump tore into four progressive freshman congresswomen who last weekend he tweeted should return to their native countries if they “hate America.”Of the four, who strongly oppose many of Trump’s policies, one is black, one is Hispanic and two are Muslim. All are American citizens, and three were born here.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters that such cries “have no place in our party and no place in this country.”

But McCarthy, a staunch Trump ally, said the president’s aversion to Omar is based on ideology, not race.

“This is about socialism vs. freedom,” he said, a refrain Republicans are increasingly using as they begin trying to frame their offensive against Democrats for the 2020 presidential and congressional campaigns.

GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois tweeted that the “send her back” chant was “ugly, wrong, & would send chills down the spines of our Founding Fathers. This ugliness must end, or we risk our great union.”

Rep. Tom Emmer, who heads the House GOP’s campaign organization, told reporters, “There’s no place for that kind of talk. I don’t agree with it.”

But he defended Trump, saying there isn’t “a racist bone in this president’s body” and asserting that Trump “said wrong” what he actually meant.

“What he was trying to say is that if you don’t appreciate this country, you don’t have to be here. That goes for every one of us. It has nothing to do with your race, your gender, your family history. It has to do with respecting and loving the country that has given you the opportunities which you have.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on Fox Business News that it’s time to “lower the rhetoric” about racism. He did not mention the crowd’s chants or Trump’s acceptance of them.

Besides Omar, Trump has also been criticizing Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

The Democratic-led House voted Tuesday to condemn Trump’s tweets as racist. On Wednesday, it rejected an effort by one Democrat that was opposed by party leaders to impeach Trump.
Ilhan Omar’s Life ‘in Imminent Danger’ After ‘Send Her Back’ Chant: Dems
By Chris Perez
July 18, 2019 | 9:45pm

House Democrats on Thursday called for increased security in response to the “Send her back” chants that got hurled at Rep. Ilhan Omar during President Trump’s rally in North Carolina.

“It’s crystal clear to me that [Omar’s] life is in imminent danger,” said Democratic Illinois Rep. Bobby Rush in a statement.

“[Trump] has threatened the safety of a member of Congress,” he added. “That takes this to a whole different level.”

Congressman Al Green (D-Texas) announced plans Thursday — while speaking on the House floor — to introduce legislation for more enhanced security measures.

“Leadership has adequate security,” he said. “Members do not have adequate security. I want to thwart the efforts of those who might want to harm a member of this House.”

Green argued that Omar and the other congresswomen who make up “the Squad” — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rasihda Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley — all needed increased security following Wednesday night’s rally attack.

Trump has been waging a war of words with the group for several days now after telling them on Twitter to “go back” to the countries they came from. Only one of the lawmakers is foreign-born, while the others all hail from the US.

Omar has said that she doesn’t fear for her safety following the rally, but she is concerned about what will happen to “people who share [her] identity.”

“This is not about me,” she told reporters on Thursday. “This is about fighting for what this country should be and what it deserves to be.”

Trump condemned the “Send her back” chants while speaking to the media on Thursday.
“I was not happy with it,” he said. “I disagree with it.”

The president, however, has defended his “go back” tweets — tweeting that they “were NOT Racist.”

“I don’t have a Racist bone in my body!” he tweeted Tuesday. “The so-called vote to be taken is a Democrat con game. Republicans should not show ‘weakness’ and fall into their trap.”

With Post wires
House Dems Warn Omar in 'Imminent Danger' After Trump Rally Chants
By SARAH FERRIS, HEATHER CAYGLE and JOHN BRESNAHAN
Politico
07/18/2019 05:48 PM EDT

House Democrats erupted in fury Thursday over President Donald Trump’s attacks on freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar at his reelection rally, fearful that crowd chants of “send her back” have personally endangered her and her family.

Senior Democrats are now calling for authorities to evaluate security for Omar (D-Minn.), as well as the three other lawmakers who Trump called out by name at his Wednesday night rally in North Carolina — warning that Trump has escalated the risk of threats or even acts of violence toward the four minority freshmen.

“It’s crystal clear to me that her life is in imminent danger,” said Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), a senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus. “He has threatened the safety of a member of Congress. That takes this to a whole different level.”

“It’s bad enough that the president didn’t stop the chant last night. But he started it. It’s instilling fear, it’s going to instill violence,” added Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), the House’s No. 4 Democrat.

Trump disavowed the "send her back" chant on Thursday, telling reporters, “I was not happy with it. I disagree with it.” The chant started as Trump was falsely claiming that Omar praised Al-Qaeda — an untruth he has repeated several times in recent days — and the president then paused his speech for several seconds as the audience continued.

Omar told reporters Thursday that she wasn't worried about her personal safety but feared for Americans of color who she thinks could become a target after Trump's comments.

"When you have a president who clearly thinks someone like me should go back, the message that he’s sending is not for me, it’s to every single person who shares an identity with me," she said.

The Minnesota Democrat also warned of the dangers of bigotry.

“Racism distracts, racism hurts, racism kills,” Omar said. “What I’m going to be busy doing is uplifting people and making sure that they understand here in this country we are all Americans, we are all welcome regardless of what he says.”

Democrats' public reaction Thursday comes as an internal debate is playing out within the caucus. Lawmakers are divided over how to respond to Trump if he continues to attack the four high-profile freshman congresswomen, making it a dominant theme of his campaign.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), one of the lawmakers Trump railed against Wednesday night and in tweets over the weekend, said she has concerns over her safety and is discussing with Democrats whether to ask for additional security.

“This president is evolving, as predicted, deeper into the rhetoric of racism which evolves into violence,” she said. "We are not in politics anymore. We are in racism — really we’re talking about fascistic government."

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that Democrats spoke with the Sergeant-at-Arms office before Wednesday night “about making sure that our members have what they need for their protection."

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) on Thursday sent his second letter in four days to Capitol Police, urging them to reevaluate their security protocols for Omar and the other freshmen.

“There are some people who are easily influenced, and I’m afraid the president is part and parcel to the potential danger of those members of Congress. So we’ll have it looked at,” Thompson said in an interview Thursday.

House Democrats overwhelmingly voted on Tuesday to condemn Trump's racist remarks against Omar, Ocasio-Cortez and Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), in which he said the four women of color should "go back" to another country.

But the issue continued to dominate the week, overshadowing a victory for House Democrats Thursday when the caucus overwhelmingly passed a universal minimum wage bill, fulfilling a major campaign promise after months of private battles between liberals and moderates.

"The president is a bully, I think the president is ignorant. And it is a difficult half-full, half-empty [glass situation] because we know this," said Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) about the internal debate over how to continue to respond to Trump.

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), leader of House Democrats' messaging arm, said the chants were one of the "most vile, repulsive, disgraceful, un-American things I’ve ever seen in my life." But, he added, Democrats knew when they passed the resolution earlier this week it was unlikely to deter Trump.

"We did what Congress can do. We did a strong resolution of condemnation," he said. "I don’t think anyone who voted for the resolution of condemnation thought for a moment it would change his behavior.”

In the meantime, senior Democrats are focusing on the most immediate issue at hand — whether additional security precautions should be taken to protect the four congresswomen.

"If I were her I would immediately call the FBI and say what do I need for protection," said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). "It’s hard to believe she’s not going to get threats coming out of a rally last night.”

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries also suggested Thursday that the four freshmen might require more security in light of Trump’s attacks, with a crowd of thousands chanting to “send her back.”

“We need to make sure that every single member of the House Democratic caucus, particularly those who have been viciously targeted by Donald Trump, including at the rally last night, are safe and have the protection that they need,” Jeffries said.

Other Democrats responded with rage at Trump’s comments at the capacity-crowd rally at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., where he said the freshmen lawmakers “hate our country.” Then he added: “You know what? If they don’t love it, tell them to leave it” — prompting the raucous crowd into chants.

Three of the progressive freshman lawmakers were born in America and Omar, who emigrated from Somalia as a child, became a citizen in 2000 at age 17.

But Democrats say his rhetoric at Wednesday's rally, where he encouraged crowd chants, crossed yet another line as they feared a rise in personal threats against the four lawmakers of color, including two of Congress's first Muslim women.

“The president’s comments are extremely dangerous to any person that looks like me. The fact that her continued to incite his supporters the way his just tells me that he frankly doesn’t give a damn about the safety of Americans,” Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) said.

“Dangerous, obscene, racist, disgusting, quite frankly un-American,” Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said of the comments.

Andrew Desiderio and Burgess Everett contributed to this report. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Sudan’s Armed Groups Reject Agreement on Transitional Political Document
SLM Minni Minnawi, SPLM-N Malik Agar and JEM Gibril Ibrahim speak to reporters in Addis Ababa on 17 July 2019 (ST photo)

July 17, 2019 (KHARTOUM) - The rebel Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) announced its rejection of the political agreement initialled by the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) and the Transitional Military Council (TMC), saying that the approach adopted was flawed and unacceptable and would complicate the national process.

The TMC and the FFC on Wednesday morning initialled the text of the political agreement which describes the three organs of the transitional authority and details the power-sharing during the transitional period.

However, the deal failed to resolve the difference on the legislative council as the TMC continues to claim the need to review the majority of 67% agreed to the opposition groups members of the FFC last May.

However, SRF spokesman Mohamed Zakaria Farajalla told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday that the Front was surprised by the initialization of the agreement between the two parties while it was engaged in consultations meetings with a delegation of their allies in the FFC in the Ethiopian capital on ways to achieve peace.

He said that the agreement reached by the FFC political and armed groups in Addis Ababa provides to include the SRF vision in the political and constitutional agreements with the Military Council.

"It is not understandable that the deliberations of Addis Ababa meeting are in their final stage and the FFC negotiating team inside the country concludes the agreement without waiting for the outcome of Addis meetings to be included in the agreement."

"This approach is flawed and unacceptable and will complicate the national process. As the Sudanese Revolutionary Front, we affirm that we are not a party to the agreement and we have the right to take what we see as appropriate steps to achieve peace and democratic transition."

The Addis meetings between a delegation of the FFC and the SRF agreed on a draft declaration of principles to achieve peace during the transitional period to be integrated within the political and constitutional agreements to be reached with the Transitional Military Council.

Zakaria stressed that the meetings in Addis Ababa are still ongoing but will seek to understand the reasons that led the FFC political groups to strike the deal with the military council without waiting for the outcome of the meetings of Addis Ababa.

He pointed out that the SRF calls for postponing the formation of the institutions of the transitional period until the signing of a peace agreement, after which the phenomenon of armed movements will disappear, in order to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past in dealing with the armed movements after each popular revolution.

Since last April, in a series of meeting held in Abu Dhabi, the armed groups proposed to distinguish between the pre-transitional period and the transitional period which will start within six months after the conclusion of peace agreement with the armed groups in Darfur, the Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.

The SRF spokesperson said there is still a chance to overcome this crisis if what will be reached between them and their allies in the FFC is included in the political agreement before to strike a deal on the constitutional declaration.

"If this issue is not addressed, the SRF will have several options to deal with issues of war and peace, including direct negotiations with the military council," he asserted.

Zakaria said that the discussion on the draft submitted by the SRF to the FFC delegation on the achievement of peace is still continuing.

Agar: The agreement does not represent the whole FFC

For his part, the head of the SPLM-N Malik Agar said that those who signed the agreement, do not represent all the Forces for Freedom and Change.

"The agreement ignored important issues being discussed in Addis Ababa, foremost of which is the issue of peace.".

"There has been a deep dialogue between active leaders in the forces of freedom and change and the Sudanese Revolutionary Front," he said in a statement extended to Sudan Tribune.

"The agreement damaged this dialogue and what is said about peace does not exceed public relations."

"We are part of the FFC, and this agreement will lead to different positions .. We are studying the issue with our comrades in the SRF before to take a position that we will announce today," he said before the joint press statement.

In a statement read at a joint press conference in Addis Ababa, the SRF groups voiced their reservations about the form and content of the initialled political declaration, including the negotiation method.

The FFC negotiators have ignored important parties and issues and focused on power-sharing and ignored important issues, "forgetting that the SRF could enter into a power-sharing deal if it wanted a long time ago," further said the statement.

Gibril Ibrahim, head of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), said in a tweet posted in the morning said that "the initialization of a political agreement between the military junta and some FFC forces a disregard for the consultations taking place in Addis Ababa."

"The Sudanese Revolutionary Front is not a party to this agreement."

(ST)
Sudanese Parties Agree on Transitional Political Document
FFC delegates at the meeting with the TMC on the political and constitutional documents on 16 July 2019 (AFP Photo)

July 17, 2019 (KHARTOUM) - The ruling military council and the opposition Forces for Freedom and Change have reached an agreement on the Political Declaration for the transitional period as they will continue talks on the disputed constitutional during the week.

The deal which has been endorsed in the first hours of Wednesday will be initialled during the day, as the final signing will take place in a ceremony attended by regional leaders once an agreement is concluded on the constitutional declaration.

The political declaration includes the three institutions: sovereign council, government and legislative council. Also, it tackles the transitional period tasks such as peace, economic reforms and humanitarian relief. Further, it reaffirms the investigation of crimes committed against civilians after the collapse of al-Bashir’s regime last April.

One of the most important issues in the political document is the number of the members of the collective presidency or the Sovereignty Council which will be composed of 11 members: six civilians and five militaries. Each of the two sides will appoint five members and they will pick the eleventh civilian member by consensus.

Initially, the military junta insisted that the eleventh member should be a former military but the FFC rejected this restrictive stipulation.

The political agreement establishes a rotating presidency. The Transitional Military Council will appoint the chairman of the Sovereign Council for 21 months followed by a chairman chosen by the FFC for the remaining 18 months.

According to the document, an independent investigation committee will be established to probe the bloody attack of 3 June that resulted in the killing of over a hundred civilians at the main sit-in area in Khartoum.

The parties in the upcoming days will deal with the constitutional document which defines the attributions and powers of the three organs of the transitional authority.

The FFC recently voiced its opposition to the absolute political immunity given to the TMC members in a draft text released by the joint mediation. Different proposals have been made to make it reversible in case of involvement in human rights violations, killing or other crimes.

(ST)
NIEHAUS: ZUMA QUESTIONING AKIN TO INTERROGATION
Former President Jacob Zuma's supporters have welcomed the decision to discontinue his testimony at the state capture inquiry.

Former President Jacob Zuma at the state capture commission on 17 July 2019. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN

Clement Manyathela
Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - Former President Jacob Zuma's supporters have welcomed the decision to discontinue his testimony at the state capture inquiry.

A decision was taken on Wednesday between Zuma and the commission that the proceedings be adjourned until Friday to allow room for deliberations over the concerns the former president raised.

Earlier today, Zuma raised objections with the inquiry’s line of questioning, saying he has a problem with the expectation that he must remember details of events that had nothing to do with his position as head of state and those that happened a long time ago.

MKMVA spokesperson Carl Niehaus said that they shared the former president's concerns, saying the questions he'd been asked since Monday have been unfair.

"The process of leading the president to provide the evidence has deteriorated into something that became more akin to an interrogation. There were details demanded that would be sometimes difficult for him, as the overall executive, to provide and would be more appropriate to be provided by the administrative staff that surrounded him."
JACOB ZUMA'S LAWYERS DISCUSS HIS POSSIBLE WITHDRAWAL FROM ZONDO INQUIRY
Zuma has been complaining that he was expected to remember details of what happened a long time ago.

Former President Jacob Zuma at the state capture commission on 17 July 2019. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN.

Clement Manyathela & Mihlali Ntsabo
Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - Former President Jacob Zuma’s lawyers are now discussing whether or not he should continue with his testimony at the state capture commission of inquiry.

“He was brought here under false pretense," one of his lawyers said.

Zuma has been complaining that he was expected to remember details of what happened a long time ago.

He told the state capture commission that he had a problem with the inquiry’s expectation that he must remember details that, as head of state, he didn’t deal with directly.

Zuma was continuing his testimony at the inquiry on Wednesday afternoon, where he has denied ever insisting on the appointment of Siyabonga Gama as Transnet CEO despite him facing serious charges.

This allegation was made by Barbara Hogan at the commission last year, who was Public Enterprises Minister at the time of the appointment.

Zuma said it was unfair for the commission to ask for details of some events.

“I have a problem because I’m being made to go through the details that are the details of the officials and expected to remember every other detail on the work that is generally done by the DGs and other officials.”

Meanwhile, the former president’s legal team earlier on Wednesday again accused deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo of being unfair.

Zuma’s lawyer Muzi Sikhakhane asked for an adjournment, saying his client was brought before the commission under false pretenses.

“Now I need him to make up his mind whether he wants to be cross-examined because it is clear, it’s just been confirmed, that he is being cross-examined.”

His lawyer, Muzi Sikhakhane, also said it was not fair for the commission to question Zuma, who was head of the state, on the processes of selecting and appointing people for government positions.

“…When you have the document from the right person. I don’t think this is fair to this witness."

Zondo responded: “Well Mr Sikhakhane, sometimes you have a laid down process and you have a different understanding… of the process that was followed and sometimes, a laid down process was not followed. The question was meant to get his understanding of the appointment process."

Sikhakhane interjected and asked what that had to do with fraud and corruption.

Zondo said: “It’s got to do with whether where it is alleged that he said he had only one choice as a candidate and whether his understanding of the process is different from what is laid down.”

Zuma was being questioned about former Public Enterprises Minister Barbara Hogan’s claims flouted procedure and interfered in the appointment of former Transnet CEO Siyabonga Gama.

From the onset Zuma and his legal counsel have expressed unhappiness with the commission’s treatment of him, saying he was being handled like an accused.

Sikhakhane asked to adjourn for 30 minutes.