Warren Silenced For Speaking of Sessions' Racist Past at Attorney General Confirmation Hearing

Senator Elizabeth Warren is banned from further comments after reading a letter explaining his actions against the civil rights movement. 

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren was shut down by the Senate Tuesday for her questioning of Donald Trump’s controversial pick for attorney general, Jeff Sessions. The Alabama Republican has continually been called out for racist views, something that Warren focused on during the confirmation hearing.

RELATED: US Senate Democrats Delay Votes on Trump Key Cabinet Picks

Warren quoted a 1986 letter from civil rights activist Coretta Scott King, wife of Martin Luther King Jr., in which she opposed Sessions' unsuccessful nomination for to a position as a federal judge. In the letter, King said that Sessions used his power as a federal prosecutor to “chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens.”

“If confirmed, he will be given a life tenure for doing with a federal prosecution what the local sheriffs accomplished twenty years ago with clubs and cattle prods … I believe his confirmation would have a devastating effect on not only the judicial system in Alabama, but also on the progress we have made toward fulfilling my husband’s dream,” other sections of King’s letter read.

Warren was warned by Montana Senator Steven Daines that reading the letter would be breaking the rules set for the hearing. After she continued, she was banned by Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell for breaking rule 19: “No Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words, impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct for motive unworthy or becoming a Senator.”

McConnell’s ruling was then backed up by a senate vote, with Republican Senators voting on party lines. After a failed appeal from the Democrats, Warren was barred from speaking again during the nomination hearing, where a vote is expected Wednesday night.

“I will not be silent about a nominee for attorney general who has made derogatory and racist comments that have no place in our justice system,” Warren later tweeted.

Angered by the ruling, Democrats argued that other Republican Senators had been allowed to continue talking for far worse offenses and that technically Warren’s criticism was not aimed at a nomination for the position of attorney general.

Back in 1986, Sessions was accused of making racist comments while serving as a U.S. attorney in Alabama. He called a Black assistant U.S. attorney “boy” and the NAACP “un-American” and “communist-inspired.”

RELATED: Trump Fires Acting Attorney General After Row over Travel Ban

At the start of Sessions confirmation hearing in January, protesters from anti-war organization Code Pink and two others dressed in Ku Klux Klan robes entered the chamber for the hearing. Sessions, however, has denied any links to supporting the Ku Klux Klan in the past as “damnably false.”

Sessions has also enthusiastically backed Trump's border wall with Mexico, promised to prosecute illegal immigrants who repeatedly enter the country and questioned the Obama administration's decision to shield immigrants from deportation. He is also reported to be one of the key figures behind Trump’s immigration, counter-terrorism and trade policies.

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Mahmoud Abbas Rejects Israeli Colonization in Palestinian Territories

Paris, Feb 8 (Prensa Latina) Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, has reaffirmed in France today the rejection of Israel's colonization process, which he considered a threat for the bilateral understanding.

In a statement at the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Senate, the president stated that 'we are committed to peace and security, but there are some limits.'

He referred to the acceleration of the colonization process of the Palestinian territories in recent weeks, including legal provisions adopted in the Parliament to endorse those actions contrary to international law, as Abas has repeatedly recalled.

The president is visiting Paris and held a meeting yesterday with President, François Hollande, after which they issued statements to the press.

Both sides considered that the new law aimed at endorsing thousands of settlements built in the West Bank is a threat to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, since it directly infringes the two-state solution.

Abbas called for Israel to stop the colonization process and end the occupation of the Palestinian territories, which is essential to move towards the solution of the two states.

The visitor was received today by Foreign Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, and both talked on the international conference held on January 15th in Paris to promote peace between Israel and Palestine, with the participation of 75 countries and organizations.

According to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they also analyzed the bilateral Franco-Palestinian relations in areas such as culture, economy and education.

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'Tillerson is Not Pro-Russian', but Unlikely to Seek 'Confrontation' With Moscow

On Thursday, Rex Tillerson was sworn in as the new United States Secretary of State. In relations with Moscow Tillerson is likely to embrace a pragmatic approach, according to Grigory Yarygin, a political analyst and specialist in American politics.

The new US state secretary was sworn in by Vice President Michael Pence. The official ceremony took place in the White House, in the presence of President Donald Trump.

In a congratulatory telegram to Tillerson, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed hope for a constructive dialogue between Moscow and Washington.

"[The telegram] reads: Russian-US relations continue to play a special role in the modern world, remaining a key factor for ensuring the strategic stability and security. I am hoping for a constructive dialog with you on the whole range of the issues on bilateral and international agenda," Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova said at a press briefing on Friday.

Tillerson is the former CEO of Exxon Mobil, one of the world’s largest energy companies. He was harshly criticized by US political establishment for his close business ties with Russia and alleged friendly relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Rex Tillerson is expected to have a pragmatic foreign policy approach, independent from US Congress, according to Grigory Yarygin, a lecturer at the Department for American Studies, the St. Petersburg State University.

"We can say that Tillerson will act independently, just like Donald Trump. They owe Congress nothing. They will act independently despite demands from congressmen. As for his foreign policy, it is likely to be realistic, non-militarized and pragmatic," Yarygin told Radio Sputnik.

The expert suggested that Tillerson is likely to concentrate on Washington’s economic interests and commercial relations.

"He doesn’t have a diplomatic experience, but he is a responsible team player. He also has leader skills. So, I think he will be a good US State Secretary," Yarygin said.

According to him, in building ties with Russia, Tillerson will adhere to a pragmatic approach.

"His starting point will be the fact that Russia acts rationally. There will be no provocations with sanctions. At the same time, he has a hardline view of sanctions and Russia’s foreign policy. I think he will run a deterrence policy towards Moscow, including no criticism and no confrontation," the expert pointed out.

Yarygin’s assumption was echoed by Konstantin Kosachev, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Russian upper house of parliament.

"Tillerson’s rationalism and his commitment to practical results will make the US foreign policy more pragmatic and less ideology-biased," Kosachev told RIA Novosti.

The senator regards the new US State Secretary as a "reliable partner" for Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to start a substantial dialogue on the future of US-Russia bilateral relations.

"Of course, Tillerson is not that pro-Russian, as some of his opponents have portrayed him. He also made a series of harsh statements about Russia during hearings in Congress. But this is not what he really thinks," Kosachev concluded.

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Tehran ‘unmoved’ by US threats, will use weapons ‘only in self-defense’ – Iranian FM to Trump

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has responded to US President Donald Trump’s Twitter accusations that Tehran was “playing with fire,” also taking to social media to say that Iran was “unmoved” by US threats and “will never initiate war.”

The foreign minister posted two videos on Twitter, with the tweets reading: “Iran unmoved by threats as we derive security from our people. We'll never initiate war, but we can only rely on our own means of defense.”

Iran unmoved by threats as we derive security from our people. We'll never initiate war, but we can only rely on our own means of defense.

He also challenged those who warn Iran, accusing them of hypocrisy.

@JZarif We will never use our weapons against anyone, except in self-defense. Let us see if any of those who complain can make the same statement.

“We will never use our weapons against anyone, except in self-defense. Let us see if any of those who complain can make the same statement,” Zarif wrote.

In the two videos posted on his Twitter account, Zarif is seen explaining Iran’s stance in a previous speech.

“You were not the subject of war, where your cities were showered with missiles carrying chemical warheads, and you didn’t have a single missile to retaliate, so that maybe Saddam Hussein would stop,” he said, referring to the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.

“We went to one country after another, begging – I insist, begging – for a single scud missile to defend our people. Now, you want us to get a few dollars, and to abandon defending our people,” he goes on to say, adding that Iran is “entitled to the rudimentary means of defense.”

On Monday, Fox News quoted US officials as saying that Iran had conducted medium-range ballistic missile tests. Iran confirmed that it had tested the missile, and that the launch was "in line" with its plans.

"We will not allow foreigners to interfere in our defense affairs," Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan told Tasnim news agency on Wednesday.

Zarif’s tweets came after the US President Trump attacked Tehran, saying that “Iran is playing with fire,” and warning the country’s officials that he would not be as “kind” as former President Barack Obama.

A historic deal brokered during Obama’s time in office stated that Iran would curb its nuclear potential significantly, but not completely, cutting the number of its centrifuges by two-thirds.

The deal also obliged Iran to cap its uranium enrichment program below the level necessary for bomb-grade material, and involved Tehran agreeing to reduce its enriched uranium stockpile from around 10,000kg to 300kg for 15 years. In exchange, the US lifted long-standing sanctions against Tehran.

The UN has only recently said that Tehran is honoring its part of the bargain.

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Ukraine plans NATO referendum… but alliance reportedly shuns missile shield talks with Kiev

Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko says he intends to hold a referendum on NATO membership, while the alliance is said to have shelved planned talks on Ukraine’s missile defense over fears these could worsen relations with Russia.

“Four years ago, just 16 percent [of Ukrainians] advocated NATO membership for Ukraine. Now it is 54 percent,” Poroshenko said in an interview with German newspaper Berliner Morgenpost, on Thursday.

“As president, I will act in accordance with the opinion of my people – and will hold a popular vote on the issue of NATO membership. And if Ukrainians vote for it, I will do everything to secure our membership in the alliance,” Poroshenko said, adding that in his opinion the alliance “is indispensable” and “the only functioning organization of collective security” in the world to date.

Meanwhile, NATO itself might not be so keen on strengthening ties with Ukraine. According to a new  by the Wall Street Journal, the alliance has recently postponed a planned meeting with Ukrainian officials regarding , allegedly to avoid provoking Russia.

“There is some political sensitivity in the engagement of Ukraine because obviously that could fuel an overreaction by the Russians,” an unnamed NATO diplomat told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.

NATO was considering meeting with Ukraine – as it has done in the past with Japan and European partners – to discuss the possibility of debris or an errant interceptor falling on the country’s territory, were the alliance to use its missile defense system stationed in nearby Romania.

According to NATO officials, the bloc intends to use the system only to defend the allied nations and does not plan to intercept missiles headed to Ukraine. The NATO diplomat cited by the Wall Street Journal said the decision to put off talks does not preclude future discussions on the issue with Ukraine, although the bloc intends to move cautiously to avoid irking Russia. 

NATO’s missile defense system in Romania consists of a radar and a number of interceptors on land and at sea. It came under NATO full control last year, with officials repeatedly stressing that the system is solely designed for defense, mostly to intercept any ballistic missiles potentially fired from Iran.

However, Moscow has viewed statements of this kind with suspicion, urging NATO to agree on limits to its missile shield, which set up dangerously close to Russia’s borders.

According to the WSJ, officials familiar with internal NATO discussions claimed that as relations with Moscow were already tense, the move to discuss missile defense with Ukraine – Russia’s immediate neighbor – could be misunderstood.

Reports contradicting the WSJ’s claims have also emerged.

We did not cancel any negotiations with any country whatsoever,” an anonymous alliance official told RIA Novosti.

We will continue to exchange information, consult and cooperate with our neighbors and partners, as and when necessary, doing it gradually and in stages.”

According to the official, “with regard to NATO missile defense, [we] recognize and respect the interests of other countries. […] In recent years we have been discussing missile defense with our partners, and we continue to work with them on this issue.”

Apart from NATO broadening its missile defense, the alliance and Russia have been increasingly at odds over the bloc’s general military buildup in Europe. In the latest move, US troops and heavy weapons began arriving last month in Europe as part of ‘Operation Atlantic Resolve’, a mission designed to curtail a perceived ‘Russian threat’ to Europe. Eighty-seven US battle tanks, 144 Bradley fighting vehicles, and 3,500 soldiers arrived near Russia’s borders as part of the buildup agreed upon at the alliance’s summit in Warsaw last July. NATO has also been holding military drills ever closer to Russian territory, most recently in Poland and Lithuania.

This policy towards Moscow, repeatedly slammed by Russia as a threat to the country’s national security, has been growing in scale since Crimea voted to split from Ukraine and rejoin Russia in a referendum in the wake of the Ukrainian coup in 2014. NATO supported Ukraine's coup-instated government over the issue, and still considers the Crimea transition an annexation. Furthermore, NATO and EU countries also imposed an array of economic sanctions on Russia’s banking, energy and defense sectors, to punish Moscow for the Crimea transition and its alleged, but never proven, support of the anti-government rebels in east Ukraine. These were recently extended for another six months, despite negative reactions from Italy and France. 

In his interview with Berliner Morgenpost, Ukraine’s President Poroshenko urged for sanctions to remain in place, as they are allegedly the only thing keeping “Russian aggression” at bay.

Do you know who wants the lifting of the sanctions most? President Poroshenko. But before that, Russia must withdraw all its troops from our territory so that Ukraine can restore its territorial integrity and sovereignty. A premature loosening of the sanctions would strengthen the Russian aggression against Ukraine – putting Europe at risk. Who knows where Putin would next want to help a Russian minority? In the Baltics? In Bulgaria? Or maybe in Germany?

@RT_com Anti-Russian sanctions cost Western countries over $60bn - research http://on.rt.com/7hry

Photo published for Anti-Russian sanctions cost Western countries over $60bn - research — RT Business

Anti-Russian sanctions cost Western countries over $60bn - research — RT Business

Countries that backed sanctions against Russia have suffered significant export losses with products targeted by the Russian embargo accounting for only a small fraction of the loss, according to the...rt.com

“The sanctions work. Russia pays a high price for its aggression. The standard of living has fallen considerably, the Russian currency is losing its value. It is the sanctions that will keep Putin at the negotiating table and will force him to fully implement the Minsk Accords,” Poroshenko said. 

Recent studies show however that sanctions against Russia have backfired, affecting instead the countries that supported them. In addition, according to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the rift created by anti-Russian sanctions has severely affected cooperation in battling other crucial crises, including international terrorism – “driv[ing] apart states” and preventing international partners “from joining forces in combating a common evil.

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Colombian Senator: FARC-EP Disarmament Unprecedented

Bogota, Feb 1 (Prensa Latina) Colombian senator Ivan Cepeda has described as unprecedented the massive arrival of the FARC-EP, the country's largest guerrilla group, to the transition points and zones to put down weapons, displacement that continue today.

Speaking to the 'Semana en Vivo' program, the congressman stated that the transfer of this group -in demobilization phase- to stages of 14 departments is the result of a long negotiation period and demonstrates the strict compliance of the acquired commitments.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People's Army (FARC-EP) have passed all tests and are arriving in the places where the adaptation works have been making progress, also to others in which there is no water or electricity; in most cases the guerrillas are undertaking works to turn them into habitable zones, he insisted.

According to Sergio Jaramillo, High Commissioner for Peace, he should be in the transition points and zones -the latter smaller than the former- about 6,300 members of the rebel group to disarm and prepare for reintegration into civilian life.

The movements of troops began on Saturday, January 28th, from the pregroup stages to the 26 transition points and areas with accompanying observers of the tripartite supervisory mechanism.

This group is made up of spokesmen of the government, FARC-EP and a political mission coordinated and funded by the United Nations.

President Juan Manuel Santos and Timoleon Jimenez, top leader of that organization, signed on November 24th the definitive agreement to end the long confrontation between both parties.

The challenge now is to implement everything agreed to ensure the success of the so-called post-conflict.

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TV Documentaries on Hugo Chavez' Life Begins in Venezuela

Caracas, Jan 31 (Prensa Latina) Venezuelan state television broadcasters begin today a presentation of documentaries about the life and work of the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, Hugo Chavez.

With the exhibition of Dreams Come as Rain from 21:00 local time, this Tuesday begins a day called The Real Chavez, according to the website of the Ministry of Communication and Information.

'The intention is to channel the material of an enormous potential that the Commander left to us, and channel it through the cinema as a way to build and create thought and ideology', expressed on the eve the Minister of Culture, Adan Chavez, in a public appearance.

Likewise, the director stressed the importance of national cinematography to protect the country's historical memory and raise the cultural level of the people.

The Bolivarian Revolution boosts and promotes the production of Venezuelan cinematographic material, 'for being a deeply educational tool,' added the official.

Finally, he commented that as part of the rescue of the conscience and other values ​​of the people, it is necessary to exhibit the humanist, revolutionary, political and ethical legacy of Hugo Chávez (1954-2013).

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Iran to dump the US dollar in response to Trump's travel ban

Tehran plans to ditch the use of the American currency in financial reporting after US President Donald Trump issued a travel ban on seven countries, including Iran.
According to the local news agency PressTV, the Central Bank of Iran is seeking to replace the dollar with a new common foreign currency or use a basket of currencies in all official financial and foreign exchange reports.

Iranian rials © Mushtaq Muhammed

The governor Valiollah Seif said it would come into force in the new financial year starting March 21, 2017.

The agency quotes Seif recommending using currencies with a “high degree of stability.”

The decision comes after President Trump temporarily banned citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the US.

After Trump’s election, the Iranian rial saw record lows against the dollar. On December 27 it plunged to its all-time low of 41,600 rials to the dollar.

The head of the central bank said the US did not have a significant role in Iranian trade and could be replaced with currencies of Iran’s key partners like the European Union, China, and the United Arab Emirates.

Tehran has agreements with Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Iraq to use national currencies in the local trade.

says dump dollar

Iran gets oil revenues in US dollars, and exchanging $41 billion for other currencies has significant risk, analysts have warned.

The local business newspaper Donya-ye Eqtesad responded that Iran uses dollars only in official reporting, and the US currency has largely been replaced with other currencies.

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