January 23, 2017

(CNN)President Donald Trump on Monday will unravel the behemoth trade deal he inherited from his predecessor, as two sources familiar with the matter told CNN he plans to sign an executive order to withdraw from the negotiating process of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

That executive order will send signals to Democrats and leaders in foreign capitals around the world that Trump’s rhetoric on trade during the campaign is turning into action. Trump vowed during the campaign to withdraw the US from the Pacific trade deal, commonly known as TPP, which he argued was harmful to American workers and manufacturing.

The executive order is expected to be the first Trump will issue Monday, a senior White House official said, and will amount to the administration’s first major action on foreign policy.

Syrian peace talks get off to shaky start after rebels refuse direct negotiations with government

Syrian peace talks in Kazakhstan got off to a rocky start on Monday after rebel groups refused face-to-face negotiations with the government, which in turn labelled its delegation terrorists.

The landmark talks, brokered by Russia and Turkey, are the first between armed opposition groups and the regime since war erupted in the country in 2011.

They are a showcase of the new power brokers in the region, with an increasingly disengaged Washington left sidelined.


China just made VPNs illegal

The Great Firewall just got more impenetrable.

Chinese authorities block access to big-name websites such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and numerous others, and to thwart these restrictions, many residents on the mainland use virtual private networks. Starting this week, that could be a crime. Use of VPNs and special cable connections in China must now be approved by the government, essentially making these services illegal in the country.


Key port town in Yemen liberated

The recapture of Mocha by Yemeni forces cuts off Iran-backed Al Houthi militants from vital weapons shipments

Yemeni loyalist forces patrol a highway near the Red Sea port town of Mocha on January 20, 2017.

Mocha: Yemeni government forces captured on Monday the key port of Mocha as they pushed to oust Iran-backed Al Houthi rebels from the Red Sea coastline, an AFP journalist said.

The Iran-backed rebels have received weapons shipments from Iran through this port and liberating it delivers a major blow to the militants.

Government forces were combing the port, a journalist accompanying the troops said, almost three weeks after Yemeni forces launched an offensive against the rebels and their allies on Yemen’s southwestern coast.

An official statement said government forces recaptured the whole city, but a military commander in the field told AFP that the army was still fighting the rebels on the southern outskirts of Mocha.


Counterintelligence officials probe Flynn’s links to Russia


U.S. counterintelligence agents have investigated communications that President Donald Trump’s national security adviser had with Russian officials, according to people familiar with the matter.

Michael Flynn is the first person inside the White House under Mr. Trump whose communications are known to have faced scrutiny as part of investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency and Treasury Department to determine the extent of Russian government contacts with people close to Mr. Trump.

A key issue in the investigation is a series of telephone calls Mr. Flynn made to Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., on Dec. 29. That day, the Obama administration announced sanctions and other measures against Russia in retaliation for its alleged use of cyberattacks to interfere with the 2016 U.S. election. U.S. intelligence officials have said Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the hacks on Democratic Party officials to try to harm Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid


Trump picks former congresswoman and Air Force veteran Heather Wilson as Air Force secretary

January 23 at 1:11 PM

President Trump will nominate a former congresswoman and veteran who served on the National Security Council during President George H.W. Bush’s administration to be his Air Force secretary, the White House said Monday.

Former representative Heather A. Wilson (R-N.M.) is currently the president of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, a science and engineering university in Rapids City, S.D. She was the first female veteran elected to a full term in Congress, and left the House in 1999 after a failed primary run for the Senate seat now held by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.). She served in the Air Force in the 1980s after graduating from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, leaving as a captain, and was a Rhode Scholar.


Syrian Democratic Forces condemn their exclusion from Astana peace talks

SDF leaders speak to a press conference in Raqqa countryside. Photo: ARA News

ARA News

Qamishli – The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a main group fighting Islamic State’s (ISIS) militants in northern Syria, have been excluded from the Russian-led peace negotiations in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana.

Starting on Jan. 23, the talks are supposed to bring parties to conflict in Syria to the table of negotiations.

“Despite all the victories we’ve achieved against ISIS terrorism in northern Syria, we have been excluded from the Astana talks,” the Kurdish-led SDF said in a statement on Sunday.

The SDF condemned the exclusion, saying it was a violation to their sacrifices in the fight against ISIS, stressing that they’ve “liberated key Syrian territories from terrorist groups”.


Iran welcomes Russian participation in the $2.5 billion construction of a pipeline to transfer Iranian gas to Europe, a deputy oil minister says.

IGAT-9 is a 35 billion cubic meter per year pipeline that Iran plans to use to send gas from its giant South Pars field to Europe via Turkey.

Russian companies have indicated interest in Iran’s gas development projects, with state-run Gazprom recently signing a letter of intent with the National Iranian Gas Company (NIGC).

“We are welcoming Russians’ participation in the project to build Iran’s IGAT-9 with $2.5 billion of investment,” Deputy Minister of Petroleum Hamid Reza Araqi said in remarks published by the Mehr news agency on Monday.


Most wanted French jihadist charged with terrorist offences in France

One of the UN’s most wanted jihadists has been charged with terrorist offences in France after being transferred from Turkey where he had turned himself in.

Kevin G., 24, is a high-profile French jihadist who converted to Islam 10 years ago, and who was placed on a blacklist in 2014 and is suspected of being a major recruiter for Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS, ISIL).

The suspect’s reported role was to attract young French people to join IS in Syria and Iraq. The jihadist is also thought to have had connection with some of the perpetrators who carried out the terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015.

“He spent four years in Syria amongst jihadists, first with former al-Qaeda affiliate the Fateh al-Sham Front, and then the IS group,” according to France 24.


Taiwan’s Ancient Submarine Will Reach an Astounding 80 Years in Service

On Jan. 21, 2017, Taiwan announced that the 72-year-old SS-791 Hai Shih, or Sea Lion, will receive a retrofit allowing it to continue sailing until 2026. The $19 million retrofit will be to improve the hull and the diesel vessel’s “navigational elements,” Taiwan News reported.

Eight-zero. That’s a remarkable lifespan for a submarine, and the Hai Shih is already the oldest submarine still in service with a navy anywhere in the world — she looks like she traveled decades into the future through a wormhole.

Before she was Hai Shih, she was the U.S. Navy submarine USS Cutlass, a 1,570-ton Tench-class vessel that launched on Nov. 5, 1944 during World War II. Her wartime service was brief, and Cutlass didn’t reach her first patrol zone near the Kuril Islands until the day after Japan capitulated.


The right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) will discipline one of its state leaders over remarks he made criticizing Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial. Bjoern Hoecke, AfD head in eastern Thuringia state, triggered anger across Germany with a comment about the memorial. He told party members in a speech in Dresden last week: “Germans are the only people in the world who plant a monument of shame in the heart of the capital.” AfD co-leader Frauke Petry told German broadcaster MDR on Monday that its executive committee had concluded Hoecke’s statements harmed the reputation of the party. The party considered it necessary to take disciplinary action, said Petry, who had already distanced herself from Hoecke’s remarks. Hoecke said his remarks were misrepresented by the media. (Reuters)



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