Washington, June 22 (AP/UNB) — The planes were ready — their deadly cargo poised for delivery within a half-hour.
President Donald Trump had been given a series of options Thursday night on how to respond to Iran’s downing of an unmanned American surveillance drone. Senior military advisers zeroed in on a plan to launch strikes on a trio of sites within Iran, and it was up to Trump to give the final go-ahead.
If the planes took off, Trump later recounted to NBC, they would soon be at “a point where you wouldn’t turn back or couldn’t turn back.”
Trump’s decision point came at the culmination of a tense 24 hours inside the West Wing after the drone went down.
How would he make his decision? “My gut,” he told legislators.
When the military officers came looking for the president’s final go-ahead, Trump said he had one last question.
″‘I want to know something before you go,’” Trump recounted. ”‘How many people will be killed?’”
This account is based on information from more than a dozen legislators, congressional aides, administration officials and others, some of whom spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
Hours earlier, a model of a proposed new Air Force One was perched on the coffee table in the Oval Office. Its Trump-designed red, white and blue color scheme glistened under the Oval Office lights.
Seated behind the plane were Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose visit to Washington on Thursday to discuss trade and tariffs was suddenly upstaged by the rising tensions in the Middle East. With reporters peppering Trump with a cacophony of questions about how he would respond to Tehran, the president took a moment to extoll the virtues of the new presidential plane. “It’s going to be terrific,” he declared.
But what to do about Iran?
“You’ll find out. You’ll find out,” Trump said. “They made a very big mistake.”
The president, who had just come from a briefing on the incident, seemed to telegraph what he had learned, declaring, “I find it hard to believe it was intentional, if you want to know the truth.”
“I think that it could have been somebody who was loose and stupid that did it.”
Over a year earlier, Trump had defied most of the United States’ allies by pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal and strengthening sanctions on the regime, choking the Iranian economy and pushing Tehran to escalate tensions. Trudeau, who largely looked on in silence while Trump fielded questions, used his brief remarks to highlight the need for close coordination among nations.
“We look forward to discussing with our closest ally — their perspectives on this — and how we can move forward as an international community,” the Canadian prime minister said.
Trump, for his part, made no mention of alliances.
Trudeau’s meeting later that afternoon with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was abruptly cancelled when McConnell was summoned to the White House for a briefing on Iran.
But there was a glaring omission on the invitation list for briefing top congressional leaders and national security committee chairmen.
The heads of the House and Senate foreign relations committees were quickly added once the White House was reminded the panels have jurisdiction over the War Powers Act, according to a congressional aide familiar with the situation.
Once assembled, the lawmakers around the table made their case, one by one. Trump seemed eager to hear their opinions, even those of House Democrats who have launched a slew of investigations into the president.
“These conflicts have a way of escalating,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told the president. Even if Trump didn’t intend to go to war, Schumer said, he could “bumble” into one.
The legislators saw “a commander in chief who struggled with the issue,” said Republican Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. “It was painful for him.”
Democrats made the case for caution, for partnering with allies, for taking a breath to de-escalate, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would put it later. Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff told the administration it could not continue to rely on the war authorizations approved by Congress after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
White House reporters and photographers trained their eyes on a West Wing side door where the legislators would emerge, looking for any clues to what had transpired. When the legislators did turn up, there was a perplexing image: Schumer pumped his arms skyward in a celebratory “raise the roof” gesture while Pelosi cheerfully clapped.
Had the Democrats talked the president out of war? Had some sort of deal been struck?
Neither. It turned out Schumer had just relayed the happy news that his elderly mother had been released from the hospital.
“We left with the idea the president was going to consider some options,” Pelosi said.
Televisions across the White House were tuned, as usual, to Fox News. Tucker Carlson’s image flickered on the screen as he made his case earlier in the week against going to war with Iran.
Carlson was making a similar case to Trump in private, according to a White House official and a Republican close to the West Wing.
Trump had been soliciting a wide array of opinions about Iran after a pair of tankers were damaged a week earlier near the Strait of Hormuz, an incident U.S. officials blamed on the Iranians. The president was growing frustrated with his national security adviser John Bolton’s advocacy for a strike, the officials said
The attack on the drone put the military option on the table.
But when Trump asked his question Thursday about how many Iranians could die in the strikes, the answer gave him pause. He was told 150 Iranian lives were at stake.
“I thought about it for a second,” Trump told NBC, “and I said: ‘You know what? They shot down an unmanned drone, plane, whatever you want to call it. And here we are sitting with 150 dead people that would have taken place probably within a half an hour after I said go ahead.’ And I didn’t like it. I didn’t think, I didn’t think it was proportionate.”
The president, long opposed to being drawn into a military conflict in the Middle East and in particular with an unpredictable foe like Iran, played up the drama of the moment. He tweeted Friday morning that the military had been “cocked and loaded” and that the weaponry was only 10 minutes away from being deployed.
As the day went on, a sense of normalcy returned to the White House.
On Friday afternoon, lawmakers filtered into the White House south lawn for the annual congressional picnic — just steps away from the windowless, basement Situation Room where security officials had debated what could come next.
Risch’s prediction: “There’s going to be something more proportional, obviously, and I suspect it’s going to be not kinetic action.”
Dhaka, June 22 (UNB) - A woman who suspected her mother was being scammed online later sent the fraudster £40,000, ending up heavily in debt, reports BBC.
The mother-of-one from south east Wales was a victim of romance fraud, a crime which police say grew by nearly a third last year.
Now the woman has spoken out about falling for the charms of the man she had initially been suspicious of.
"I just felt like I was emotionally blackmailed," she added.
She said her "lonely" mother had started an online relationship with the man, who said he was French and called Jean Marc.
But when he told her he needed help after being robbed on a business trip to Ivory Coast, the daughter became suspicious.
"I said to my mum 'don't you dare send him any money'. I said 'he's a scammer'," the woman told the BBC Wales X-Ray programme.
But her opinion changed after she spoke to the man herself.
"His voice was so lovely, so soft. He started with his stories and my heart just melted," she said.
She asked questions about his circumstances but Jean Marc had answers for all of them. He even sent her a photo, that looks edited, showing him in a hospital bed.
"I sent him the first money. I didn't even tell my mum, I did it because I wanted her to be happy," she said.
She sent 800 Euros (about £712) last summer and went on to make 21 further payments, totalling £40,000 until she realised she had been scammed.
She is now heavily in debt after maxing out credit cards and selling her mother's jewellery and has little hope of seeing her money again.
'End of marriage'
But she said the hardest part was telling her husband what had happened.
"I just couldn't cope - it was killing that he didn't know. I thought that's going to be the end of our marriage," she said.
"When I told him he didn't even look at me. He only said I can't believe you were so stupid.
"I just felt like I was emotionally blackmailed, I hope [people] will think twice before they believe in all the lies of the scammers."
It emerged that the man calling himself Jean Marc had stolen the identity of a Frenchman, Stephane Girynowicz.
His face has been used to create hundreds of fake profiles on social media and there's even a Facebook page dedicated to outing him.
He has posted a picture of himself online pleading with scammers to stop using his face for profiles.
In 2018, 4,555 reports of romance fraud were made to Action Fraud, the police reporting centre, with total losses up by 27% compared with the previous year. The total is likely to be higher as many victims are thought to have suffered in secret.
Gwent Police said it was seeing more and more victims of romance fraud.
"It's easier nowadays to steal money sitting behind a computer screen than it was in the bad old days to go out and burgle somebody's house - it's far easier," said PC Neil Cooper.
"It's so anonymous. The effect it has on the victims is devastating - it affects their lives, it makes them depressed, it makes them feel totally foolish. It's a really despicable act to do."
Geneva, June 21 (AP/UNB) — The U.N.'s labor agency has adopted its first convention specifically aimed at reducing violence and harassment in the workplace, with its chief crediting a recent boost from the #MeToo movement.
Delegates exchanged hugs, applauded and whooped in a U.N. conference hall after the International Labor Organization overwhelmingly passed the resolution, which has been some four years in the making.
The ILO Convention on Violence and Harassment was adopted 439-7 with 30 abstentions, a landmark achievement of the ILO's centennial assembly that ended Friday. The agency unites businesses, labor groups and 187 member states.
ILO director-General Guy Ryder hailed a "most important moment" and said #MeToo had accentuated the "momentum and significance" of the push to adopt the convention.
"The new standards recognize the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment," he said.
Ryder said the convention would "make a difference in working life," and noted that women are far more affected by harassment and violence in the workplace than men.
Delegates turned back efforts to include language in defense of LGBT people in the accord, with Ryder calling it a "contentious" issue.
The Convention will now go to states that will decide whether to ratify it.
The agency counts 187 member states plus employer and labor groups in its "tripartite" structure.
Pyongyang, June 21 (Xinhua/UNB) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping's two-day state visit to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is a major diplomatic action that comes as the world is undergoing changes unseen in a century and the international situation is seeing complex and profound changes, a senior Chinese official said on Friday.
According to Song Tao, head of the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the visit, which coincides with the 70th anniversary of the diplomatic ties between China and the DPRK, is also Xi's first trip to the neighboring country since he became the Chinese president and general secretary of the Central Committee of the CPC, which bears key significance for the development of bilateral ties.
A NEW CHAPTER FOR TRADITIONAL FRIENDSHIP
The DPRK has attached a great importance to Xi's visit and received the Chinese leader with grand and warm welcome, Song noted, saying that Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea and chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the DPRK, and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, welcomed Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, at the airport, and accompanied the couple for various activities during the visit.
The two leaders had on multiple occasions conducted friendly, frank and in-depth exchanges, and have reached key consensus on writing new chapters for the China-DPRK friendship, and safeguarding peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula, said Song.
During the visit, Xi has engaged a series of exchanges with officials and ordinary people in the country, while hundreds of thousands of residents in Pyongyang lined up the streets to welcome and later see off the Chinese president. Xi also watched a large group callisthenics and art performance, which was specially prepared for him.
Song said these have fully reflected a deep and profound friendship of the party, government and people of the DPRK towards the party, government and people of China, and demonstrated the vitality of the friendship between the two sides.
He also said Xi's visit was a visit of friendship and peace, and has displayed China's determination to stay committed to consolidating the traditional China-DPRK friendship, supporting the implementation of DPRK's new strategic line and promoting a political solution to solving the nuclear issue in the peninsula.
The traditional friendship between the two countries has been forged and fostered by their elder generation of leaders, and the top leaders of the two sides have maintained a tradition to keep a close contact, said Song.
Xi's trip, said Song, has realized not only the historical exchange of visits by the top leaders of the two parties and countries in such an important year as the one that marks the 70th anniversary of the diplomatic ties between China and the DPRK, but also the 5th gathering between them in 15 months, adding that it will be a much-told story in the two countries' high-level exchanges.
During the visit, Xi and Kim have conducted in-depth exchanges on furthering the development of the China-DPRK relationship, and have reached extensive major consensus, which helps draw a blueprint for the future of bilateral ties, Song said.
The Chinese president pointed out that the China-DPRK relationship has entered a new historical era, adding that the CPC and the Chinese government will stay firmly committed to maintaining, consolidating and nurturing the bilateral ties, and China is willing to work with the DPRK in creating a bright future for the relationship.
Song said the visit is a huge political support and encouragement for the party, government and people of the DPRK and has shown the world the unbreakable China-DPRK friendship, adding that both sides have agreed that they will step up high-level exchanges and strategic communication so as to promote an even greater achievement in the traditional friendship and the relations between the two parties and countries.
STRENGTHENING GOVERNANCE EXPERIENCE EXCHANGE
During the visit, the two leaders exchanged in-depth views on the socialist construction of their respective countries, said Song, adding that Xi spoke highly of the positive achievements made by the DPRK in implementing its new strategic line.
Xi stressed that China firmly supports the DPRK in pursuing a development path in line with its national conditions, adding that China stands ready to deepen exchanges and mutual learning with the DPRK on party and state governance so as to push forward the socialist construction of the two countries.
Kim expressed deep gratitude to Xi, noting that the Chinese leader's close attention to the DPRK's socialist construction as well as its development in economy and livelihood has strengthened the confidence of the party and people of the DPRK in their cause, Song said.
Xi and Kim, Song said, jointly blueprinted in detail a future of the bilateral relationship and agreed to take commemorating the 70th anniversary of diplomatic ties as an opportunity to expand practical cooperation and deepen friendly exchanges.
The two sides will conduct exchanges and cooperation in such fields as agriculture, tourism, education, health, sports, media, youth as well as at local levels, so as to improve the well-being of both peoples, Song said.
INJECTING NEW VITALITY INTO POLITICAL DIALOGUE
On the Korean Peninsula issue, the two leaders had in-depth and candid exchange of views on the current situation in the peninsula as well as how to maintain the dialogue process, Song said.
The situation of the Korean Peninsula concerns regional peace and stability, Xi pointed out, calling it a right choice to resolve the issue through dialogue.
Xi also called for a strategic and long-term perspective to accurately guide the evolution of the situation and effectively maintain peace and stability in the peninsula.
During his visit, Xi spoke highly of the DPRK's efforts to promote the denuclearization of the peninsula and re-launch the process of political settlement to the issue, stressing that China is ready to strengthen communication and coordination with the DPRK and other related parties on the issue so as to safeguard peace, stability and prosperity in the region.
For his part, Kim thanked Xi for his positive remarks and said the DPRK will stay patient and control the situation to safeguard peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula and create a favorable external environment for the DPRK's development.
Kim said the DPRK hopes that the relevant party will work with the DPRK to seek solutions that accomodate each other's legitimate concerns and push for results from the dialogue process, according to Song.
New Delhi, June 21 (AP/UNB) — Prime Minister Narendra Modi successfully lobbied the United Nations to designate June 21 International Yoga Day in his first year in power in 2014.
Since then, just as China under President Xi Jinping has given countries pandas for their zoos in a show of goodwill, Modi has used one of India's most popular exports to assert his nation's rising place in the world.
On Friday, the fifth annual International Yoga Day, Modi practiced various yoga "asanas" alongside an estimated 40,000 people in India's eastern state of Jharkhand as members of his Cabinet and foreign envoys rolled out their yoga mats in cities around the world.
"Let our motto be yoga for peace, harmony and progress," Modi said before joining the hourlong practice.
Most of India's 191 embassies and consulates worldwide organized yoga sessions to commemorate the day, according to the foreign ministry.
The ministry shared photos of yoga flash mobs on the streets of Kiev, colorful yoga mats around Brussels' Triumphal Arch, sun salutations under the Washington Monument, hundreds in seated prayer pose at Moscow's Tagansky Park and more than 500 people in identical transparent ponchos and black pants in front of the Yellow Crane Tower in rainy Wuhan, China.
At an event for diplomats in New Delhi featuring India's foreign minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Israel's ambassador Ron Malka said Modi's use of yoga as a tool of diplomacy is "working quite well" to strengthen ties between the two countries.
Walter Lindner, the German ambassador to India, described Modi's yoga bid at the U.N. a "clever move."
"Yoga is a product which you can sell everywhere in the world," Lindner said, adding that 4 million people were participating in International Yoga Day events in Germany.
Modi has also used yoga to bolster his image at home.
Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party won a resounding victory in India's recently concluded weekslong general elections by promoting a "New India" that pairs rapid economic growth with the trappings of the country's ancient roots.
After the final day of polling, Modi, who casts himself as a Hindu ascetic who closely follows the religion's strictures on vegetarianism and yoga, retreated to a Himalayan mountain cave to meditate — with a camera crew in tow.
Modi last year released a 2-minute video showing him practicing yoga on his lawn at the prime minister's residence. Some online commentators used the opportunity to compare Modi with India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.
Many shared pictures of Nehru doing a headstand, an advanced yoga posture. Of the benefits, Nehru wrote in his autobiography, "The slightly comic position increased my good humor and made me a little more tolerant of life's vagaries."