U.N. investigator says expectations low for Trump's peace plan

Expectations for the success of the Trump administration’s peace plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict appear to be very low, UN special investigator Michael Lynk told reporters at the United Nations in New York ahead of US special envoy Jared Kushner and his assistant Avi Berkowitz.

Kushner, who has taken the lead on the Trump peace plan, is expected to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White Party head Benny Gantz to discuss the plan. Kushner’s assistant, Avi Berkowitz, is expected to join as well.
No date has been set for the release of the political component of the plan, but it is presumed that it would only be published after the formation of a government.

“There seems to be a very low expectation that [the peace plan] would have much meaningful impact on the ground, if and when it ever winds up getting released,” said Lynk, who is the UN’s special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories.

He spoke with reporters on Thursday about the plan as part of a press conference he gave about the failure of the international community to hold Israel accountable for its continued “occupation” of the West Bank. Right-wing Israelis hold that Area C of the West Bank, and certainly the settlements located there, should be annexed to Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he would annex the settlements, should he become prime minister. It is widely believed that the Trump peace plan would allow Israel to retain the settlements.

Lynk holds that settlement activity is a war crime. Both he and the UN support a two-state solution at the pre-1967 lines, a move that would have to include the evacuation of some 130 settlements that are home to more than 430,000 Israelis.

Lynk said that any peace plan put forward by the United States must adhere to international law, a move which he holds would make it impossible for it to include the settlements.

In a report he presented to the UN in New York last week, and in his Thursday press conference, Lynk said that international pressure is the best way to halt settlement activity and force an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines.

In particular, he said, the international community and the UN must ensure compliance, particularly with the 30 to 35 UN Security Council resolutions, that have been approved with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 1967.

The international community has long promised to hold Israel to account and it has the power to do so, Lynk said.

The starting point for compliance is a “complete ban on all goods and services produced in whole or in part [in] the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem from entering the international market,” Lynk said.

Secondly, he called on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, to complete her database of businesses operating over the Green Line, which her office has worked on since 2016.

This database could become a template for other global conflicts, he said.

Should those mild measures not work, Lynk said, harsher measures could be employed, such as an arms embargo, travel bans and international arrest warrants. Countries or entities, such as the European Union and the UN, could refuse to ratify agreements with Israel until it ended its settlement enterprise, he said.

The UN General Assembly could ask the International Court of Justice at The Hague for an advisory opinion on the “legality of the occupation,” Lynk said.

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Excluding Havana, Washington bans all US flights to Cuba

Washington has barred US flights to all cities in Cuba with the exception of its capital, Havana, in another Trump administration jab at the legacy of former US President Barack Obama, who eased a longstanding embargo on Cuba.

Announcing the decision in a tweet on Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the action would “prevent the Castro regime from profiting from U.S. air travel and using the revenues to repress the Cuban people.”

“Today, I asked [Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao] to suspend scheduled air service between the U.S. and all Cuban airports, except Havana’s Jose Martí Airport,” Pompeo added in the tweet.

In addition to ramping up hostilities with Cuba – reversing an Obama era decision to pursue better relations – Washington has taken aim at other major policies of the previous commander in chief, including a landmark nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers in 2015, which President Trump repeatedly slammed as the “worst deal in history.”

Though Washington re-established diplomatic ties with Cuba in 2015, travel to the country remained somewhat restricted under US law prior to Friday’s decision.

US relations with Havana have rapidly deteriorated since Trump took office. In March, the US permanently scaled back operations at its Cuban embassy after at least two dozen staff and family members reported unexplained neurological symptoms. Media reports blamed the phenomenon on “sound attacks” launched by the Cuban government, while some even blamed Moscow. However, researchers later attributed the mystery noise to crickets.

Since then, Washington has piled economic pressure on Cuba in an effort to pressure Havana into dropping its alliance with the Venezuelan government under President Nicolas Maduro. The US has spent months trying to force Maduro out of office – efforts which so far have failed to yield tangible results.

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"They're Fake": Donald Trump's Latest Attack On New York Times, Washington Post

Washington: US President Donald Trump, in his latest attack on the American media, has said that he would "probably terminate" the New York Times and the Washington Post from the White House because "they're fake".  

Donald Trump said this while exclusively speaking to Fox News anchor Sean Hannity on Monday night.

"The media is corrupt. Not all the media. I know some great people, including you (Hannity), but I know some great journalists," he said when asked about the media. 

"They give Pulitzer Prizes to people that got it wrong and all these people from the New York Times which is a fake newspaper. We don't even want it in the White House anymore, and we're probably going to terminate that and The Washington Post from the White House, they are fake.

"Take a look at the New York Times and the kind of reporting they do. They turn out to be all wrong," the President added.

Donald Trump did not give any other details of the termination and it was not immediately known if he was removing the journalists of the two papers or ending their subscriptions at the White House.

Besides attacking the media, he also spoke about the ongoing House Democrats-led impeachment inquiry against him, reiterating that the whistleblower claims of him speaking to his Ukrainian counterpart in a July 25 phone call, asking for dirt on rival Joe Biden, were all "lies".

He even called his 2016 rival Hillary Clinton "crazy" for calling Democrat candidate and Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard a "Russian asset".

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Trump impeachment probe to focus on more key witnesses this week

Veteran State Department officer William Taylor and at least four other witnesses will be the latest in a parade of career diplomats and current and former U.S. officials to speak before congressional committees, despite the objections of a Republican White House deriding the Democratic-led proceedings as a "kangaroo court."

The fast-developing inquiry has cast a new cloud of legal troubles over Trump's presidency, contributing to unease among fellow Republicans at a time when some have already been critical of his abrupt decision to remove U.S. troops from northeastern Syria.

https://img-s-msn-com.akamaized.net/tenant/amp/entityid/AAIYcdi.img?h=416&w=799&m=6&q=60&u=t&o=f&l=f&x=1210&y=616 Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) arrives with Rep. Juan Vargas (D-CA) to hear testimony from U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland behind closed-doors, as part of the impeachment inquiry led by the House Intelligence, House Foreign Affairs and House Oversight and Reform Committees on Oct. 17. © Erin Scott/Reuters

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Woman Astronaut In Space Station Corrects Trump During Live Call: Report

US President Donald Trump was humiliated for a mistake while he contacted NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch at the International Space Station (ISS) to congratulate them for being the "first ever female spacewalkers", a media report said.

A delay in connection between Trump and the space station made for a short period of silence, before Meir made it clear that she and Koch were not the first female spacewalker, The Daily Express said in the report on Monday.

In 1984, Svetlana Yevgenyevna Savitskaya became the first woman to complete a spacewalk. In the 35 years since, a total of 15 women have spacewalked.

Koch, an electrical engineer, and Meir, who has a doctorate in marine biology, stepped outside in their NASA space suits on Friday night.

The mistake came as Trump sat at a table in the White House with his daughter Ivanka Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, as well as few NASA officials and a group of Girl Scouts in the background.

Staring at the camera, Trump said: "This is the first time for a woman outside of the space station."

"You are amazing people; they're conducting the first ever female spacewalk to replace an exterior part of the space station. They're doing some work, and they're doing it in a very high altitude - an altitude that very few people will ever see."

But Meir could then be heard correcting the President, explaining that the event marked the first time two women had been outside the spacecraft at the same time.

She said: "We don't want to take too much credit because there have been many other female spacewalkers before. This is the first time that there's been two women outside at the same time."

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Erdogan threw Trump’s ‘don’t be a fool’ letter in the trash – reports

The letter in which Donald Trump called on his Turkish counterpart to make a deal with Syrian Kurds and not to be ‘a tough guy’ or ‘a fool,’ was rejected and thrown into the trash by Tayyip Erdogan, reports claim.

The treatment of the missive, which sparked quite an uproar both in the US and Turkey, was reported by what the BBC described as “Turkish presidential sources.”

“President Erdogan received the letter, thoroughly rejected it and put it in the bin,” sources were cited as saying.

A similar account was reported by the Middle East Eye, which cited anonymous Turkish officials. Some Turkish journalists reported the letter being treated in that fashion.

Also on rt.com ‘Don’t be a fool!’ Trump threatens to destroy Turkey’s economy over Syria invasion in letter to Erdogan...

In his letter, dated October 9, Trump threatened Erdogan with economic sanctions should he commit to “slaughtering thousands of civilians” in the Kurdish-majority region of northern Syria and calls on him to strike a deal with the Kurds.

History “will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don’t happen. Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!” the letter read.

Erdogan launched the cross-border military operation, which he says targets Kurdish terrorist forces, on the same day he received the letter and has since repeatedly defied pressure from Trump and other Western leaders.

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A warning to Trump? Twitter reminds ‘world leaders’ aren’t immune to deplatforming

Twitter has put US President Donald Trump – and other world leaders – on notice with a clarification of its rules, letting one of the platform’s most popular users know that it can cut off his ability to go viral at any time.

Twitter clarified its rules concerning powerful political leaders in a blog post on Tuesday, never mentioning Trump by name but clearly keeping him in mind. The new guidelines seem uncontroversial enough on the surface, but leave a wide loophole for potential deplatforming of the #Resistance’s favorite punching bag.

While “direct interactions with fellow public figures, comments on political issues of the day, or foreign policy saber-rattling on economic or military issues are generally not in violation of the Twitter Rules” at the moment, they can get a belligerent world leader’s tweets placed in a no-man’s-land where they cannot be replied to, liked, or shared, Twitter warned.

Also on rt.com When social media stops being social: How Twitter and Facebook have rendered Americans uncivil, insecure & addicted...

They haven’t had to use the quarantine option yet, but they’re just reminding any tweet-happy world leader who might happen to be reading that it’s possible, and that it could stop their tweet from going viral. Not that they have any particular leader in mind, or anything.

There are some “red lines” which world leaders cannot cross, including “promotion of terrorism,” doxxing, child sexual exploitation, promoting self-harm, and – in perhaps the most obvious dig at Trump – “clear and direct threats of violence against an individual.” Context is key to the latter, Twitter explained, claiming “commentary on political and foreign policy issues would likely not result in enforcement” – but “likely” leaves the door open to the president being deplatformed for his usual belligerent posturing, should Twitter decide his latest tweetstorm doesn’t qualify as political commentary.

Also on rt.com ‘This isn’t impeachment, it’s a COUP!’ Trump warns followers Dems are out for their God-given freedoms & rights...

Harris had called for the suspension of Trump’s account after the president accused an anonymous CIA whistleblower of spying and House intel committee chief Adam Schiff of “fraud and treason,” claiming the tweets constituted threats because Trump had – offline – commented that the US “used to handle [spies and treason] a little differently than we do now.” Those tweets - plus Trump’s quote of a Fox News claim that removing him from office would cause a “civil war-like fracture” - had “put our democracy in danger,” Harris complained.

Twitter politely demurred to kick one of its most popular users off its platform then, disappointing the president’s many haters. But the new rules leave the door open for a more robust complaint to exile the president from his favorite platform, and Twitter apparently wants to make sure Trump knows it.

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John Bolton Warned Lawyers Over "Hand Grenade" Rudy Giuliani: Report

Washington: The White House's alleged effort to pressure Ukraine so alarmed former national security advisor John Bolton that he alerted a lawyer, his former aide said on Monday, according to US media.

Bolton also warned that President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who has emerged as the point man in the president's alleged drive to pressure Ukraine to dig up dirt on Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden, is "a hand grenade who's going to blow everyone up," his aide Fiona Hill told lawmakers, according to the New York Times.

The remark, which was also reported by NBC News, came after Trump's former top Russia advisor Hill sat for an hours-long closed door deposition before US lawmakers probing whether to impeach the president.

AFP could not independently verify the report.

Following a "sharp exchange" with US ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who was working with Giuliani on the pressure campaign, Bolton instructed Hill to notify a National Security Council lawyer, according to the Times.

Referring to acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Bolton also said that "I am not part of whatever drug deal Rudy and Mulvaney are cooking up," the Times reported, citing two sources familiar with Hill's deposition.

Her testimony came after allegations that Trump pushed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the Bidens in a July 25 phone call, which sparked an impeachment inquiry by the House of Representatives.

The White House's call memo shows Trump sought a "favor" from Zelensky. Democrats who control the chamber say it was a demand to investigate Biden -- the president's potential 2020 election rival -- and a Ukrainian firm that hired Biden's son Hunter.

On Monday evening, Giuliani said, "I don't know Fiona and can't figure out what she is talking about," and that the State Department arranged all his contacts with Ukraine, according to The Washington Post.

Last week, the Times reported that Giuliani was himself under federal investigation for his dealings with Kiev on Trump's behalf.

Trump in September fired Bolton, who is known for his hardline stances on Washington's archenemies, particularly Iran, North Korea and Venezuela.

Hill left the Trump administration shortly before the July call with Zelensky.

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