Senate panel questions Lynch over ‘political interference’ in Clinton probe

The Senate Judiciary Committee has formally asked ex-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and others to respond to allegations of “political interference” in the FBI’s Hillary Clinton email probe, according to a letter released Friday.

The inquiry was prompted, in part, by a series of media reports raising questions about whether Lynch tried to stifle the investigation into former Secretary of State Clinton’s use of a private email server. Fired FBI Director James Comey also suggested in recent Senate testimony that Lynch sought to downplay the investigation.

“The reports come amidst numerous allegations of political inference in controversial and high-profile investigations spanning the current and previous administrations,” Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley’s office said in a statement.

While Democrats have questioned whether President Trump tried to interfere in the probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign, Republicans have countered by stepping up scrutiny of Lynch’s actions.

The letters released Friday, though, were bipartisan. Grassley, R-Iowa; ranking Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., penned letters to Lynch and others seeking documentation and other details.

Graham already had expressed interest in Lynch testifying before the committee in the wake of Comey’s testimony.

In the latest letters, the senators sought information that might determine the veracity of media reports suggesting Lynch may have offered assurances to the Clinton campaign about the probe.

Those articles are based on hacked documents whose authenticity has not been confirmed.

The letter cited an April New York Times article about a batch of hacked files obtained by the FBI, including one reportedly authored by a Democratic operative who voiced confidence Lynch would keep the Clinton probe from going too far.

Lynch and others who received the committee’s letters have until July 6 to comply with the request.

The senators also refer to concerns stemming from Comey’s testimony about being uncomfortable with Lynch’s tarmac meeting last summer with Bill Clinton.

Comey also told Congress “the attorney general directed me not to call it an investigation and call it a matter — which confused me.”

US test to shoot down ballistic missile fails

Amid the threat of North Korea possibly launching a missile, the latest U.S. effort to test its shoot-down capability failed on Wednesday night, according to a statement from the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

A medium-range ballistic missile was launched from a test range in Hawaii at 7:20 pm local time, but the interceptor missile fired at sea from USS John Paul Jones, a guided-missile destroyer, missed the target.

“A planned intercept was not achieved,” the statement said.

A U.S. defense official told Fox News both the ballistic missile and the SM-3 interceptor missile fired from the American warship landed in the ocean, but neither were recovered after both missiles broke up when impacting the water.

Wednesday’s launch was the second attempt to shoot down a ballistic missile from a U.S. Navy warship since February. The first test was successful, but this latest attempt failed after missing the target for reasons not explained in the statement.

NORTH KOREA NUKE TEST SITE SEES MORE BUILDUP

Late last month in a first-of-its-kind test, the U.S. military successfully shot down an intercontinental ballistic missile target in outer space using an interceptor missile launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The Pentagon will now also have to defend against the potential North Korean missile threat without the use of one of its premier ballistic missile defense ships, after USS Fitzgerald, a guided-missile destroyer, struck a 700-foot cargo ship off the coast of Japan last week.

Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Department producer for Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews

Jack Ma warns about dangers of artificial intelligence

Jack Ma warns about dangers of artificial intelligence
The founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, Jack Ma, is warning artificial intelligence will replace human workers, but it will never replace human wisdom.

“Artificial intelligence may take a lot of jobs away. If we don’t move fast enough. If we’re not innovative enough. If we don’t give simple and easy technology products for small businesses, most of them can’t survive in 10 years. If small businesses can’t survive, we can’t survive,” said Ma, speaking in Detroit at the Gateway 17 conference for entrepreneurs.

“It’s going to be painful. Some people who catch the wave will be rich, will be more successful. For some people, it will be more painful. The government, you know, the world is going to be data. The people will now have more data than the bosses,” he said in an interview with CNBC.

According to Goldman Sachs, professions like truckers, secretaries, cashiers, bank tellers, waiters and real estate agents could be replaced by artificial intelligence in the near-term.

However, robots will never be wise as humans, Ma said.

“It’s about wisdom. It’s about experience. So I don’t think the machine — the artificial intelligence — is gonna replace the wisdom,” he said.

During the conference, Ma repeated his prediction last week that Alibaba will be worth more than the world’s fifth-largest economy by 2036, bigger than the economies of France or the United Kingdom. Alibaba wants to earn $1 trillion in gross merchandise volume by 2020, according to the billionaire.

“If you don’t sell your products in China, you will miss the future,” said Ma.

‘US should mind its own business; it shouldn’t be in Syria’ – Ron Paul

‘US should mind its own business; it shouldn’t be in Syria’ – Ron Paul
The US has no right to fly into Syrian airspace where it shouldn’t be and set boundaries but should mind its own business. Otherwise, it is an act of aggression, says former US Congressman Ron Paul.

The US fighter jet downed an armed drone belonging to pro-Syrian government forces in southern Syria, near a base in the al-Tanf region, on June, 20 as the drone was advancing on US-backed forces, according to a coalition statement.

This is happening at a time of escalating tension between Moscow and Washington. Also on Tuesday, Australia said it is temporarily suspending air operations in Syria.

RT discussed the latest developments in Syria with former US Congressman Ron Paul.

RT: Australia halted its cooperation. How significant is this development? Why did they do it?

Ron Paul: I think that is good. Maybe wise enough, I wish we could do the same thing – just come home. It just makes no sense; there’s a mess over there. So many people are involved, the neighborhood ought to take care of it, and we have gone too far away from our home. It has been going on for too long, and it all started when Obama in 2011 said: “Assad has to go.” And now as the conditions deteriorate …it looks like Assad and his allies are winning, and the US don’t want them to take Raqqa. This just goes on and on. I think it is really still the same thing that Obama set up – “Get rid of Assad” and there is a lot of frustration because Assad is still around and now it is getting very dangerous, it is dangerous on both sides. One thing that I am concerned about – because I’ve seen it happen so often over the years are false flags. Some accidents happen. Even if it is an honest accident or it is deliberate by one side or the other to blame somebody. And before they stop and think about it, then there is more escalation. When our planes are flying over there and into airspace where we shouldn’t be, and we are setting up boundaries and say “don’t cross these lines or you will be crossing our territory.” We have no right to do this. We should mind our own business; we shouldn’t be over there, when we go over there and decide that we are going to take over, it is an act of aggression, and I am positively opposed to that. And I think most Americans are too if they get all the information they need.

RT: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said earlier that he wanted to ask his American counterpart why the US-led coalition isn’t targeting Al-Nusra in Syria. What sort of answer do you think he’ll get?

RP: I think it will be wishy-washy. He’ll probably think it is in their interests not to do anything to damage the radicals, the extremists, the rebels because I think that our government thinks that they could be helpful in undermining Assad. I don’t think they are going to say “Yeah, they are our buddies now, we consult with them all the time.” It won’t be that. They’ll argue “We have to help the Kurds out” or something along those lines and make excuses. I think that there’s a net benefit to the radicals for us to get involved there and it is not helpful in the long run for our position which ought to try to bring about peace.

The propaganda the American people hear is such that they get them pretty excited about it, but I am very confident that if the American people had more information…because when I talk to them, they side with my arguments. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to be doing what we are doing, and that’s why I persist in trying to get to the facts but trying to eliminate the danger, try to obey international law, try to do the things that are in our best interest. And if we are talking about America’s interest – it isn’t helped by our policy in the Middle East for the last 15-20 years, I think it has all been negative.

Richard Black, Republican member of Virginia State Senate, told RT that “the US and the coalition are in Syria without any permission, without any lawful authority to be present”.

“Some members of the coalition may say “We are in clear violation of international law, maybe this is not right.” Others bought into this coalition to be part of a group fighting ISIS, and now they are saying “Wait a minute. We didn’t go into Syria to fight the legitimate duly elected government of Syria; we went there to fight this terrorist organization.”…The coalition is certainly not there to help the Syrian people; it is there to help Saudi Arabia with its Wahhabi radical Islamic domination of the entire world beginning with the countries close to it”.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Mental blockade: US embargoes 20 nations but frets over imaginary Russian siege

Finian Cunningham
Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. Originally from Belfast, Ireland, he is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. For over 20 years he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organizations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Now a freelance journalist based in East Africa, his columns appear on RT, Sputnik, Strategic Culture Foundation and Press TV.
Mental blockade: US embargoes 20 nations but frets over imaginary Russian siege
US and British troops this week joined thousands of NATO forces to conduct war games in Poland rehearsing the ‘possible’ blockade of Baltic states by Russia. Talk about mental blockade.

Never mind that Russia has repeatedly denied it has any intention of invading Latvia, Estonia or Lithuania, or any other state for that matter. And never mind that there is no evidence at all of any unusual build-up of Russian forces posing a threat to its Baltic neighbors.

NATO commanders themselves admit that the latest war games are a “theoretical scenario” in which Russian military sever the 104-kilometer Suwalki Gap between Belarus and Kaliningrad, thus cutting off the Baltic NATO members from the rest of the 29-member alliance.

The amusing thing about this imaginary blockade by Russia of sovereign states is that it contrasts with actually existing blockades or embargoes imposed by the US and its allies against at least 2o nations.

And topping the list of countries sanctioned by Washington and its allies is Russia. Only last week, the US Senate voted through new punitive measures to tighten financial and diplomatic restrictions imposed on Russia over the 2014 Ukraine crisis. In addition to dubious claims of Russian interference in Ukrainian affairs, the American senators have now added unfounded allegations of Russian interference in the US presidential elections at the end of last year.

Other countries to feel the heat from US sanctions include Iran, Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea. Cuba takes the unenviable title of having been subjected to a blanket embargo imposed by the US for nearly six decades. A relative easing of the sanctions under the previous Obama administration is now being reversed by President Trump who is accusing Havana of harboring a “brutal regime”.

According to the US Treasury and the State Department, a full list of some 20 blacklisted foreign nations extends to Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea and Zimbabwe among others. When counting in nations which are sanctioned or blockaded with US approval by Washington’s allies the list includes the Palestinian territory of Gaza, the Donbas breakaway republics of eastern Ukraine, Yemen and most recently Qatar.

Out of the 20 or so nations blockaded in some way by American complicity, none is in more grave humanitarian crisis than Yemen. Millions of children are facing starvation and death from diseases like cholera due to a land, sea and air blockade imposed on the war-torn country by Saudi Arabia with the support of the US and Britain.

Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab region, depends on imported food for 80 per cent of its total supply. The US and British-backed Saudi blockade on Yemen has also cut the country off from vital medical supplies. What is going on there is a truly barbaric siege which is comparable to the most notorious sieges recorded in history, such as the Nazi Wehrmacht’s three-year horrific blockade imposed on St Petersburg (Leningrad).

Of less humanitarian severity is the blockade thrown up around the Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar. Nevertheless, the draconian move by Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies to cut off transport and financial links between Qatar and the rest of the world is an outrageous violation of international law. The siege on Qatar could not be applied if it were not for at the least tacit approval of Washington.

The accusations leveled against the Qatari rulers of sponsoring jihadist terrorism are serious enough. But the idea that Saudi Arabia is leading these pious allegations is ridiculous given the oil kingdom’s own well-documented sponsorship of terrorism.

The salient point is the way certain states evidently consider it their prerogative to use financial and diplomatic coercion of others. It is not an exaggeration to say that such one-sided measures are used like weapons. Rather than diplomatic means of dialogue and arbitration, the resort to slapping on sanctions is simply bullying.

Such substitution of diplomacy and international law by unilateral punitive measures is a dangerous erosion of normal relations.

It is no coincidence that the US-backed Saudi military coalition blockading Yemen for the past two years with such horrendous human suffering – and with such little international outcry – can then turn around casually to blockade Qatar. Once international law and norms have been breached as they have been so horribly with regard to Yemen, then it becomes “acceptable” to repeat elsewhere.

What is even more dangerous is that sanctions and embargoes are all too often a prelude to all-out war, as history has shown. The Pacific War between the US and Japan (1941-45), for example, was the culmination of years of an oil embargo imposed by Washington on Tokyo. The “surprise” Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, was in many ways a desperate resort to full-on conflict.

The latest US sanctions lined up against Russia take aim at disrupting its giant gas trade being expanded with Europe through the Nord 2 Stream project. This is the real geo-strategic objective of the US. To disrupt the European energy market for Russia in order to advantage American companies.

Even European leaders, such as Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern, issued statements last week decrying the Senate’s proposed Russian sanctions. “Threatening European enterprises is a violation of international law,” they said. Perhaps their complaints could be taken more seriously if these same European leaders did not also comply with US-led sanctions against Russia and Crimea.

How long Russia will tolerate this American attack – and attack is what it is, albeit in financial form – against its vital national interests is a troubling question. History shows that threats against vital interests sooner or later reach a threshold beyond which overt violence becomes inevitable. The surge in tensions in Syria over the American shoot-down of a Syrian warplane could be one such spark.

The US and its NATO allies accuse Russia of “threatening” Europe and destabilizing the “liberal world order”. This is while NATO spends a total of 10 times more on military than Russia. And while NATO forces amass on Russia’s borders.

Similarly, Washington conducts war games that “envisage” an imaginary, future blockade of NATO countries by Russia. Russia has not blockaded any country and has categorically denied having any intention of doing so. Meantime, it is Washington and its allies that are actually blockading, embargoing or sanctioning as many as 20 nations.

Washington’s blockades entail a unilateral repudiation of diplomatic means. In some cases, they are an outrageous violation of international law. And further still, financial coercion by Washington can be seen as an act of war.

If one has trouble deciding which nation is the source of so much international tensions and aggression, perhaps a sure way of making an assessment is to answer the question: which nation is responsible for imposing the most sanctions and blockades on others?

And if we view the unilateral use of blockades as low-intensity warfare, then without hesitation, the United States is the world’s number one warmongering regime.

A curious Western mental blockade seems to obscure this otherwise clear conclusion.

 

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Tropical Storm Cindy turns deadly: 10-year-old Alabama boy killed

Tropical Storm Cindy is threatening areas from the Florida Panhandle to eastern Texas Wednesday, and is responsible for at least one death in Alabama.

captured this brilliant loop of Tropical Storm Cindy (formerly PTC3) in the Gulf this afternoon! Forecast @ http://goo.gl/USGfHE 

A 10-year-old boy died in Fort Morgan, Ala. Wednesday after being struck by a log washed in by a storm surge. He died of injuries he sustained from the debris hitting him, according to the Weather Channel.

The National Weather Service said early Wednesday that flash flood watches covered parts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia as the slow-moving storm trudged closer to the U.S. mainland. The heavy rains are said to be on its east side, meaning the major rain threat stretched from southeastern Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle.

TROPICAL STORM CINDY MAY BRING ‘LIFE-THREATENING’ FLOODING ACROSS GULF COAST

Intermediate Advisory issued on Tropical Storm Cindy. Primary hazard continues to be Life-threatening flash flooding.

Cindy, the year’s third tropical storm, has maximum sustained winds near 50 mph Wednesday, slightly weakening from 60 mph recorded earlier Wednesday morning. The storm is located about 165 miles south-southwest of Morgan City, La. as of Wednesday.

By Wednesday morning, the storm had dumped from 2 to 7 inches of rain on parts of southern Louisiana. In coastal Mississippi, some areas received 6 to 9 inches.

“We could see this thing park on the west side of the state and dump rain until Saturday,” Lee Smithson, Mississippi’s Emergency Management Agency Executive Director, said on Tuesday.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the State Operations Center on Tuesday to raise its readiness level from level four/normal conditions to level three/increased readiness.

NORTH CAROLINA RIP CURRENTS LEAVE FOUR PEOPLE DEAD

Heavy rains from the storm are creating flooding in low-lying areas along the Alabama coast, officials said. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued a state of emergency Tuesday.

Police said streets are flooded in village of Bayou La Batre in Mobile County, Ala. and the barrier island of Dauphin Island, where officials closed the beaches there due to the dangerously rough surf.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency in the state on Wednesday. Louisiana was slammed with major flooding last summer from an unnamed storm that heavily damaged the Baton Rouge and Lafayette regions.

“All arms of the state’s emergency preparedness and response apparatus are taking Tropical Storm Cindy seriously, and we are calling on all Louisianans throughout the state to do so as well,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a statement early Wednesday.

Workers on Grand Isle, Louisiana’s barrier island community south of New Orleans, worked to reinforce a rock levee protecting the island’s vulnerable west side. Officials there decided against calling an evacuation but said in a statement that anyone who wanted to head for the mainland should do so as early as possible because water might eventually cover low-lying parts of the only route off the island.

Already some flooding was reported on Alabama’s Dauphin Island and flood control locks and gates were being closed along Louisiana’s bayou-marbled coast. Authorities in various coastal Louisiana and Mississippi communities handed out sandbags for areas along rivers and bayous.

Much of Florida’s Panhandle is under a tornado watch and officials in Santa Rosa County, which is just east of Pensacola, tweeted that some roads were under water early Wednesday. Local news outlets also reported several roads in Escambia County have been closed due to flooding.

The National Weather Service issued tornado warnings in Saucier, Howison and Hancock County in Mississippi.

A tropical storm warning was in effect from San Luis Pass, Texas, to the Alabama-Florida border.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

US urges China to pressure North Korea to rein in weapons programs

A day after the US president said China’s efforts on North Korea had failed, his secretary of state has asked for Beijing’s help. The situation has been complicated by the death of a US student imprisoned by Pyongyang.

Watch video00:43

Trump says China should help more on NKorea

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has urged China to help pressure North Korea to rein in its weapons programs.

“[China has a] diplomatic responsibility to exert much greater economic and diplomatic pressure on the regime if they want to prevent further escalation in the region,” he said in Washington. Tillerson said North Korea was the “top security threat” to the US.

Tillerson made the comments at a press conference after high-level talks with Chinese officials at the State Department.

Read more: Trump ‘furious’ over Seoul’s North Korea ‘appeasement’

Read more: North Korea attempts to split South Korea-US security alliance

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis vowed at the same press conference to “continue to take necessary measures to defend ourselves and our allies” against North Korea, which is working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US.

The meeting of top US and Chinese diplomats and defense chiefs came just a day after US President Donald Trump said China’s efforts to use its leverage with Pyongyang had failed.

On Tuesday, Trump posted a tweet suggesting Chinese President Xi Jinping’s efforts were ineffective, a message he reiterated before supporters in Iowa.

While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!

“I do like President Xi,” he told the crowd Wednesday evening. “I wish we would have a little more help with respect to North Korea, from China. That doesn’t seem to be working.”

Trump did not elaborate on what might happen next if China fails to rein in its ally.

Complicated position

Trump’s approach to North Korea was further complicated by the death of American university student Otto Warmbier earlier this week, after he was recently released in a comatose state 17 months after being jailed in Pyongyang.

Read more: Otto Warmbier, US student released from North Korea, dies

In Beijing, officials insisted they have not given up hope of influencing Pyongyang.

“To resolve the Korean peninsula nuclear issue, China has been making unremitting efforts and we have been playing an important and constructive role,” said Geng Shuang, a foreign ministry spokesman, while stressing China was not the “focus and the crux” of the crisis.

Tillerson said Trump would make a state visit to China later this year, and Mattis said both sides had agreed to expand military-to-military ties.

A US official said on Tuesday that spy satellites had detected new movements at North Korea’s nuclear test site, but it was unclear if Pyongyang was preparing for a sixth nuclear test.

aw/cmk (AFP, dpa)

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