President Trump's proposed budget would cut food stamps by 25 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Donald Trump's budget would drive millions of people off of food stamps, just one part of a new wave of spending cut proposals.

The plan would slice a whopping $193 billion from food stamps over the coming decade, a cut of more than 25 percent.

White House officials say it would be implemented by cutting back eligibility and imposing additional work requirements. The program presently serves about 42 million people.

Mr. Trump's blueprint for the 2018 budget year comes out Tuesday. It includes a wave of cuts to benefit programs such as Medicaid, federal employee pensions, welfare benefits, and farm subsidies.

The overall plan from the White House is already getting panned by congressional lawmakers in both parties.

 

 

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Trump & 55 Muslim-majority states sign pact pledging 34,000 troops to fight ISIS in Iraq & Syria

The US and Middle Eastern countries have backed a new pact that promises to provide extra troops for defeating Islamic State, singles out Iran for destabilizing the region, and says that Riyadh is to become the heart of the region’s counter-terrorism operations.

Described as the Riyadh Declaration, the document was signed following US President Donald Trump’s visit to the Saudi capital for a summit that brought in Islamic representatives from 55 countries, and vowed “to combat terrorism in all its forms, address its intellectual roots, dry up its sources of funding and to take all necessary measures to prevent and combat terrorist crimes in close cooperation among their states.”

 
U.S. President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (R) May 21, 2017. © Jonathan Ernst

“The leaders welcomed the establishment of a global center for countering extremist thought to take base in Riyadh, and praised the center's strategic objectives of combating intellectual, media and digital extremism and promoting coexistence and tolerance among peoples,” said the text of the document, published by the Saudi Press Agency.

The exact membership of what the communique called the Middle East Strategic Alliance will be decided next year, but putative members have committed to assembling “a reserve force of 34,000 troops to support operations against terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria when needed.”

Currently the burden of anti-IS combat in both states is being shouldered mostly by local troops and Kurdish forces, with the international coalition providing air support, equipment and funding.

Despite a stated desire for inclusivity and tolerance – the declaration advocates “a rejection of any attempt to draw a link between terrorism and any religion, culture or race, affirming their determination to protect and promote a culture of tolerance, coexistence and constructive cooperation among different countries, religions and cultures” – an entire third of the resolution was aimed specifically against Iran, a Shia-majority state, and its “sectarian agendas.”

READ MORE: ‘Encouraging’: Ivanka & Melania Trump praise Saudi Arabia’s progress on women’s rights

“The leaders confirmed their absolute rejection of the practices of the Iranian regime designed to destabilize the security and stability of the region and the world at large and for its continuing support for terrorism and extremism,” said the final communique, which also accused the Islamic Republic of running a “dangerous ballistic missiles program” and “continuing interference in the domestic affairs of other countries.”

While rich in specific epithets, the declaration broadly followed the agenda of Sunday’s Sunni-dominated Riyadh summit, and the speech delivered by Trump, which mentioned Iran a dozen times, and accused it of “spreading destruction and chaos across the region.”

‘Drive them out’

Trump’s speech called on the leaders of the Muslim world to join their efforts in fighting terrorism and extremist ideologies, and pledged unconditional support to the US’s old and new allies in the region.

“Our goal is a coalition of nations who share the aim of stamping out extremism and providing our children a hopeful future that does honor to God,” Trump said.

“This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it. This is a battle between good and evil,” Trump adding, stressing that the Muslim countries should take an active role in this battle and make a choice that no one else can make for them.

“A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and extremists… Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your communities. Drive them out of your holy land, and drive them out of this Earth,” Trump said.

Israeli ministers concerned over ‘troubling’ US arms deal with ‘hostile’ Saudi Arabia

 
© Global Look Press

He then announced establishment of several international anti-terrorism centers, including two Riyadh-based groups joined by Gulf Cooperation Council members and co-chaired by the US that will be tasked with preventing the financing of terrorism.

Trump then went on to accuse Iran of providing terrorists with “safe harbor, financial backing, and the social standing needed for recruitment” as well as of being “responsible for so much instability in the [Middle East].”

He blamed Tehran for aggravating the Syrian crisis through what he called a “destabilizing intervention,” before calling on “all nations of conscience” to “work together to isolate Iran, deny it funding for terrorism.”

Trump separately thanked King Salman, the leader of the Saudi Arabia, for his “massive investment in America, its industry and its jobs” as well as for “for investing in the future” of the Middle East, as he spoke about a recent arms deal signed by the US and Saudi Arabia, which is worth $350 billion over 10 years, with nearly $110 billion to take effect immediately.

READ MORE: Trump strikes arms deal with Saudis worth $350bn, $110bn to take effect immediately

While news agencies of the Gulf States presented the news on the signing of the alliance as a milestone event, critics were not impressed with the facade, saying it all boiled down to pragmatic interests, notably those of the US military-industrial complex.

Trump’s speech was “all about defense procurement,” Martin Jay, a Beirut-based journalist and a Middle East expert, told RT, adding that Trump basically told all the Muslim leaders who attended the summit that the US would support them as long as they bought US weapons.

READ MORE: America’s cash cow: ‘Trump does not value the Saudis, only their money’

“What [Trump] was basically saying to all of these [leaders], some of whom had poor human rights records in their own countries, is that the [US] does not care about their human rights records and does not care about what they do to their own people and would even help them stay in power… if they buy American guns,” Jay said. 

Tehran’s initial reaction to the Riyadh declaration and Trump’s speech was sarcastic, with Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeting: “Iran – fresh from real elections – attacked by @POTUS in that bastion of democracy & moderation.”

Zarif then wondered if the anti-Iran text could be explained by: “Foreign Policy or simply milking KSA of $480[billion]?”

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Trump: Russia probe is greatest witch hunt of a politician in US history

US President Donald Trump says he is the victim of the “single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history,” in an apparent reference to the investigation regarding the president’s alleged ties with Russia.

@realDonaldTrump This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!

He went on to speak about “illegal acts” that took place during Hillary Clinton’s campaign and throughout the Obama administration, noting that there was “never a special councel (sic) appointed.”

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller. © Jonathan Ernst

It comes just one day after the US Justice Department named former FBI chief Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate alleged Russian interference in the US election and possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Moscow.

Trump’s tweets follow similar words from the president on Wednesday, in which he said that no politician “has been treated worse or more unfairly.”

Mueller will have sweeping powers and the authority to prosecute any crimes he uncovers during the investigation, according to AP.

Trump reiterated his innocence on Wednesday, saying in a statement that a “thorough investigation will confirm what we already know – there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity.”

Trump is also facing allegations that he leaked highly classified information to Russian officials during a meeting in the US capital last week.

That claim has been denied by both Washington and Moscow, with Russian President Vladimir Putin offering on Wednesday to release the records of the meeting, while accusing the US of developing “political schizophrenia.”

@RT_America 'No evidence Russia influencing voter tallies in...50 states' - US ex-intel chief http://on.rt.com/8b32 

Earlier this week, the Washington Post published a report claiming that Trump had “revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister [Sergey Lavrov] and ambassador in a White House meeting,” allegedly related to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

While Trump has said the “facts” discussed included terrorism and airline flight safety, which he had an “absolute right” to discuss with Russia, Lavrov on Thursday was also asked to comment on the matter.

We do not comment on gossip, but we do read [US] newspapers,” Lavrov told the media in Cyprus. “If I remember rightly, around a month-and-a-half or two months ago, the Trump administration decided to ban passengers from seven Middle Eastern countries from carrying any electronic devices on board... I don't understand where the secret is.

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Trump says he had ‘absolute right’ to share data on 'flight safety & terrorism' with Russia

Donald Trump said he wanted to discuss “facts” with Russia, ranging from airline safety to terrorism, during last week’s White House meeting. A Washington Post story has accused him of revealing classified information to Russian officials.

In a tweet, Trump said he had an “absolute right” to discuss these matters with Russia, noting that the conversation was held at an “openly scheduled” White House meeting.

@realDonaldTrump As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining....

The “facts” discussed included terrorism and airline flight safety, according to Trump, who noted that he wants Russia to “greatly step up their fight” against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

@realDonaldTrump ..to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.

Trump sent out the tweets after a Washington Post story accused him of revealing highly classified information to Russian officials during last week’s Oval Office meeting.

The claims in the Washington Post have been refuted by multiple White House officials, including National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster.

US President Donald Trump and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov © Russian Foreign Ministry

The story – which cited unverifiable sources and unnamed current and former officials – claimed that Trump disclosed “code-word information” related to IS during the May 10 meeting.

The information was allegedly disclosed to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russia’s ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak.

The report claims the information had been obtained from “a US partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement,” and was not authorized to be shared with Russia, the US’ allies, or even within much of the US government.

Trump and his staffers have been repeatedly accused of having ties to Russia, allegations which the White House denies.

Later on Tuesday, the Kremlin dismissed the Washington Post allegations, saying the story included nothing worth discussing.

“This is not a topic for us. It’s nonsense," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “We do not want to have anything to do with this nonsense. This is utter nonsense and it is not something to either confirm or deny,” Peskov said.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova described the report as part of a coordinated effort to put pressure on the Trump administration.

"This is another attempt to exert pressure on the new US administration and make deals related to various political appointments and lobbying. We can’t even say now that the media are biased because they are openly carrying out a political order," the diplomat told Kommersant FM.

Senate investigators are currently looking into the alleged ties, though Trump's critics are calling for an independent investigation into supposed communications between Moscow and the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.

Trump sacked FBI Director James Comey last week, admitting that "this Russia thing" was on his mind when he made the decision. Comey had been leading an investigation into alleged collusion between Trump's advisers and Russian officials when he was abruptly fired.

 

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Palestinian Leader Warns of US Interference in the Middle East

Damascus, May 12 (Prensa Latina) Secretary-General of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), Nayef Hawatmeh, warned today of US interference in the Middle East in an interview with Prensa Latina.

For the veteran leader, the next and first international tour of US President Donald Trump has above all the clear objective of maintaining and increasing attempts to isolate the Palestinian movement.

Preparations for a regional meeting after that tour that includes Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Vatican, since May 19, do not take into account the role of the United Nations nor any other political figure in the region, he stressed.

It is, therefore, a clear objective that Washington is seeking concessions among the various Palestinian organizations, to ignore United Nations resolutions favorable to our cause and to bring together the most reactionary forces in the Middle East, Hawatmeh said.

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‘Comey better hope there are no tapes of our conversations’ before leaking to press – Trump

US President Donald Trump has tweeted that recently fired FBI Director James Comey had better hope there are no tapes of their conversations “before he starts leaking to the press.”

@realDonaldTrump James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!

Comey, who had been leading an investigation into alleged collusion between Trump's advisers and Russian officials, was fired by the president on Tuesday.

READ MORE: Trump fires FBI Director James Comey

In a separate tweet, Trump questioned when the “witch hunt” would end, noting that former National Intelligence Director James Clapper and “virtually everyone else” with knowledge of the situation says there has been no collusion with Russia.

@realDonaldTrump When James Clapper himself, and virtually everyone else with knowledge of the witch hunt, says there is no collusion, when does it end?

Trump admitted during a Thursday interview with NBC's Lester Holt that "this Russia thing" was on his mind when he made the decision to sack Comey, who he referred to as a "showboat."

However, he said the main reason for firing him was because the FBI has been "in turmoil."

"You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil, less than a year ago. It hasn't recovered from that," Trump said.

READ MORE: Trump thought about ‘this Russia thing’ when deciding to fire ‘showboat’ Comey

Trump has repeatedly denied that he or anyone on his staff has ties to Russia, tweeting earlier on Friday that the story was "fabricated by Democrats as an excuse for losing the election."

Trump has vowed that Comey will be replaced by "someone who will do a far better job," noting that he had "lost the confidence of almost everyone in Washington."

@realDonaldTrump James Comey will be replaced by someone who will do a far better job, bringing back the spirit and prestige of the FBI.

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USA: New destructive health plan

Millions in U.S. are closely following the prospect of the new healthcare plan, passed by the House of Representatives days ago with a very tight 217- 213 margin.

Named American Health Care Act (AHCA, by its English acronym), it was conceived by Republicans to replace Obamacare.

On this matter, analysts say that many lawmakers, including members from that party, do not endorse clauses of the aforementioned bill.

Republicans, they add, with exceptions, wish to eliminate the Affordable Care Act (ACA, by its English acronym), better known as Obamacare.

However, when they passed the so-called American Health Care Act recently, they showed how far they are willing to go.  

El Nuevo Herald editorial published on Monday explained it when writing:

“They do not like that millions of people remain without health insurance”, as well as that conditions with long treatment be stopped.

But many House Republicans voted in favor of the bill for the sake of repealing Obamacare, remarked El Nuevo Herald.

In Washington they predict that the Senate could be less drastic, although its Republican members seek to protect their vote with excuses.

Here the leading figure is far-right Senator Marco Rubio, who adopts shifting stances very easily.

Then the editorial suggests him not to forget that in 2015 his state had larger number of Obamacare supporters than in the entire country.

Also that Florida voters, as it happens to more millions in the nation, are worried because the Capitol gave green light to Trumpcare.

It also advised Rubio to remind his colleagues that it is no longer about rejecting Obama’s previous healthcare plan.

Then it put the lawmaker on the ropes, telling him that it’s about opposing the current president, “as he promised during his re-election campaign to the Senate”.

To many’s surprise, only Ros-Lehtinen, due to yet nebulous reasons, ascertained the following:

“I won’t support a bill that can cause a serious harm to the health and lives of the people from South Florida”.

If approved, she warned, “the oldest and poorest”, will find it more difficult to obtain healthcare regarding any illness.

And we are sure, the editorial stated, that she would have done the same even if she was not retiring from her post within a few months.

Obamacare is not perfect, the newspaper added, but thanks to that law, millions have received a life-saving healthcare.

Along with that it said, “House lawmakers eliminated the protection for 24 million Americans” rather than improving their shortcomings.

Finally, the Editorial Board wrote that the new policy defunds insurance coverage for planned parenthood, people with cancer, heart disease, or HIV/AIDS.

Everything is even worse with the following possibilities:

It increases the cost of insurance bonuses, cuts back Medicaid expansion, and makes Americans with insurances provided by their employers feel uncertain.

Don’t be astonished at anything, that’s the wild and harsh nature of Capitalism.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff




No secret message: Lavrov didn’t deliver anything from Putin to Trump, says presidential aide

US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin did not exchange any messages through Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov when he met Trump in Washington DC, the Russian presidential aide Ushakov confirmed.

Yury Ushakov on Thursday addressed journalists, rejecting earlier reports about Lavrov passing on a message.

 
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters after his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., May 10, 2017. © Reuters

During his three-day visit to Washington Lavrov held talks with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and President Donald Trump. Moscow has welcomed the results of the talks, but noted that it is “too early to draw any conclusions” as huge work is still ahead, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday.

“Of course, the fact that the conversation is being held is rather positive. The presidents have already talked three times by phone and further to this dialogue at the highest level, Mr. Tillerson was hosted in Moscow and Lavrov was hosted in Washington. That is why these facts are certainty positive,” Peskov said. He added that there should be “cautious optimism” speaking about any thaw in the relations between the two countries.

Speaking about the possibility of Putin and Trump meeting face to face, the Kremlin spokesperson noted that this may happen during the G20 summit, which will take place in Hamburg in July.

Lavrov’s visit is one of the highest-level contacts between the Russian and the US governments since Trump took office in January. The sides agreed to continue cooperation to solve international problems, including the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, despite any difficulties in bilateral relations.

READ MORE: Lavrov trolls NBC before Trump meeting as US media, Democrats lose it over Russia

Prior to the meeting with Trump, Lavrov held talks with Tillerson, in which the two diplomats discussed progress in the fulfillment of the Minsk peace agreements and touched upon crisis in Syria.

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