Washington, Aug 31 (AP/UNB) — President Donald Trump says he had "the absolute right" to tweet a photo of an apparent explosion at an Iranian space center.
Trump was asked Friday if he had released classified information by posting the photo on Twitter.
He says, "We had a photo and I released it, which I have the absolute right to do."
Asked where he got the photo, he told reporters, "You'll have to figure that one out yourself."
Other satellite images released Thursday appeared to show the smoldering remains of a rocket at the Imam Khomeini Space Center that was to conduct a U.S.-criticized satellite launch.
Trump says Iran was "going to set off a big missile and it didn't work out too well. Had nothing to do with us."
Washington, Aug 30 (UNB/AP) — Declaring space crucial to the nation's defense, President Donald Trump said Thursday the Pentagon has established U.S. Space Command to preserve American dominance on "the ultimate high ground."
"This is a landmark day," Trump said in a Rose Garden ceremony, "one that recognizes the centrality of space to America's national security and defense."
He said Space Command, headed by a four-star Air Force general, will "ensure that America's superiority in space is never questioned and never threatened."
But there's still no Space Force.
Space Force, which has become a reliable applause line for Trump at his campaign rallies, has yet to win final approval by Congress.
The renewed focus on space as a military domain reflects concern about the vulnerability of U.S. satellites, both military and commercial, that are critical to U.S. interests and are potentially susceptible to disruption by Chinese and Russian anti-satellite weapons.
The role of the new Space Command is to conduct operations such as enabling satellite-based navigation and communications for troops and commanders in the field and providing warning of missile launches abroad. That is different from a Space Force, which would be a distinct military service like the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
Congress has inched toward approving the creation of a Space Force despite skepticism from some lawmakers of both parties. The House and Senate bills differ on some points, and an effort to reconcile the two will begin after Congress returns from its August recess.
When Jim Mattis was defense secretary, the Pentagon was hesitant to embrace the idea of a Space Force. Trump's first Pentagon chief initially saw it as potentially redundant and not the best use of defense dollars. His successor, Mark Esper, has cast himself as a strong supporter of creating both a Space Force and a command dedicated to space.
"To ensure the protection of America's interests in space, we must apply the necessary focus, energy and resources to the task, and that is exactly what Space Command will do," Esper said Wednesday.
"As a unified combatant command, the United States Space Command is the next crucial step toward the creation of an independent Space Force as an additional armed service," he added.
Kaitlyn Johnson, a defense space expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said she considers it likely, but not certain, that Congress will approve a Space Force in the 2020 defense bill.
The people in Space Force would be assigned to missions directed by Space Command, just as members of the Army and other services are assigned to an organization like U.S. Strategic Command.
Like other branches of the military, Space Force would be headed by a four-star general who would have a seat at the table with the other Joint Chiefs of Staff. Trump wanted Space Force to be "separate but equal" to the other services, but instead it is expected to be made part of the Air Force, similar to how the Marine Corps is part of the Navy.
Reestablishing Space Command has been a less politically contentious matter. There is a consensus that it is the most straightforward step among those proposed to shore up space defenses.
"This step puts us on a path to maintain a competitive advantage," Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a National Space Council meeting last week. He also endorsed creating Space Force, saying it would make a "profound difference."
Initially, the opening of Space Command will have little practical effect on how the military handles its space responsibilities. Air Force Space Command currently deals with more than three-quarters of the military space mission, and it is expected to only gradually hand off those duties to the new command.
Johnson, the CSIS expert, said the attention to space during the Trump administration has led some to exaggerate the scope of change reflected in the moves to create Space Command and Space Force.
These moves, she said, "seem very flashy and fun" but are not.
"It's really just a reorganization of functions that are already happening within the military," she said.
Air Force Gen. John "Jay" Raymond will serve as the first commander of U.S. Space Command. He currently heads Air Force Space Command.
At his Senate confirmation hearing June 4, Raymond made the case for changing the way the military approaches its space mission.
"Unfortunately, our adversaries have had a front row seat into our many successes and have seen the advantages that they provide us," he said. "And to be honest, they don't like what they see. And they're rapidly developing capabilities to negate our use of space and to negate the advantage that space provides."
Washington, Aug 30 (UNB/AP) — As a consequential week played out in world affairs and economic anxieties grew, exclamation points kept sprouting on President Donald Trump's tweets. But they were about other things. Like bedbugs.
His tweets railed about the "incompetent Mayor of San Juan!" in the unnerving hours before the gathering hurricane, Dorian, brushed past Puerto Rico en route to the mainland. When the stock market took a dive, he poked fun at a little known Democratic presidential contender. Getting ready for dinner with world leaders, he took on critics who think he has a "Messiah complex."
Trump's Twitter feed is rarely normal. But over the last seven days, it has revealed a striking disconnect between matters of gravity and his trivial excitations.
These tweets have come both when he is very busy and apparently idle, often published by his own hand, sometimes by the hidden hand of aides tweeting his wishes under his account. Some in his orbit say he's worried about an economic downturn and what that might do to his reelection chances, and that pressure is showing in his tweets.
Divining a change of winds in Trump's Twitter performance — much less his overall temperament — can be a fraught exercise. A master of provocation and changing the subject, he famously uses the medium for visceral venting and as a cudgel when anyone or anything raises his ire. His only reliable pattern is erraticism.
But those close to him acknowledge this is a particularly scattershot stretch from an always restive president.
Four officials and Republicans close to the White House, none authorized to discuss private conversations and therefore speaking anonymously, say Trump has become consumed by his reelection chances and begun to fret privately about the economy slowing down and hurting his prospects as the trade war with China takes a deeper bite.
They also say Trump has grown more confident in his ability to do the job and less in need of the cooler heads who constrained some of his impulsiveness before. Given churning staff turnover, there are fewer such people anyway.
One result: a president bouncing from attack line to attack line in tweets divorced from or only marginally connected to the real-world events at hand. Over seven days:
FRIDAY, AUG. 23
Trump typically uses the performance of the stock market as a barometer of his success — when it goes up. On this day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average takes a sharp drop and Trump responds with a joke:
"The Dow is down 573 points perhaps on the news that Representative Seth Moulton, whoever that may be, has dropped out of the 2020 Presidential Race!"
SATURDAY, AUG. 24
Trump comes away from a two-hour meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron at the G-7 and is getting ready for dinner with the other leaders. He wants to explain a "Messiah complex" flap on Twitter:
"When I looked up to the sky and jokingly said 'I am the chosen one,' at a press conference two days ago, referring to taking on Trade with China, little did I realize that the media would claim that I had a 'Messiah complex.' They knew I was kidding, being sarcastic, and just having fun."
SUNDAY, AUG. 25
On the sidelines of the G-7 summit of world leaders, French diplomacy produces an unexpected meeting with Iran's foreign minister, a potentially groundbreaking development with an adversary of the West.
As this unfolds in the halls, Trump tweets in honor of talk-show veteran Regis Philbin: "Happy Birthday Regis, a truly special man!" Trump plays up an opinion poll he likes and makes the improbable claim that the other world leaders mainly want to know from him "why does the American media hate your Country so much?"
MONDAY, AUG. 26
Trump is in a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and speaking to reporters about Islamic State fighters — not fumbling with his phone — when an aide tweets under his name:
"The story by Axios that President Trump wanted to blow up large hurricanes with nuclear weapons prior to reaching shore is ridiculous. I never said this. Just more FAKE NEWS!"
Axios stood by the story, which quoted unidentified officials and referred to a 2017 National Security Council memo said to have captured one conversation about bombing hurricanes. The government analyzed the idea generations ago and concluded it would not work.
TUESDAY, AUG. 27
A hurricane watch is in effect for Puerto Rico, still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017.
Trump: "No bedbugs at Doral. The Radical Left Democrats, upon hearing that the perfectly located (for the next G-7) Doral National MIAMI was under consideration for the next G-7, spread that false and nasty rumor. Not nice!"
After pitching his Doral resort outside Miami as a locale for the next G-7 summit, Trump is annoyed by reports noting that a guest sued the property in 2016, alleging he suffered bedbug bites there. The Trump Organization denied the resort experienced an infestation. The Washington Post said the organization reached a settlement with the man who sued.
WEDNESDAY, AUG. 28
With anxiety growing in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands over the approaching storm, Trump is still on the subject of bedbugs. He tweets about bedbugs found in The New York Times building and seems exasperated that a hurricane is heading, "as usual, to Puerto Rico." He swipes at San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz. Around this time, winds over the sea are gusting to more than 90 miles per hour, nearly 150 kilometers per hour.
A second tweet brands Puerto Rico "one of the most corrupt places on earth. Their political system is broken and their politicians are either Incompetent or Corrupt." Fifteen minutes later, the hurricane watch is upgraded to a warning.
Into the evening, Trump is contemplating what the "Age of Trump" will look like many years from now. He hopes "a big part of my legacy will be the exposing of massive dishonesty in the Fake News!"
Dorian inflicted limited damage in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands as it took a menacing track toward Florida.
THURSDAY, AUG. 29
Trump is celebrating Puerto Rico's escape from major damage from Dorian, warning Florida to get ready and enjoying the predicament of a couple of people who get under his skin.
A day earlier, MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell retracted his story about supposed Russian ties to Trump's finances and apologized for reporting it. On Thursday, the FBI chief Trump fired, James Comey, was found by the Justice Department's inspector general to have violated policy in his handling of memos documenting private conversations with the president and in giving sensitive, though not classified, information to the media.
"ALL APOLOGIZE!" Trump demanded.
That was the 27,275th tweet curated by the online Trump Twitter Archive since he joined in May 2009, not counting retweets.
His tone has changed since those days.
Back then, he offered occasional New Age bromides like this from his first month on Twitter: "Strive for wholeness and keep your sense of wonder intact."
Mexico City, Aug 28 (AP/UNB) — An attack on a bar in Mexico's Gulf coast city of Coatzacoalcos killed 23 people and injured 13 late Tuesday.
The attackers started a fire that ripped through the bar, killing eight women and 15 men. There was no immediate information on the condition of the injured.
Photos of the scene showed tables and chairs jumbled around, apparently as people tried to flee.
The state prosecutor's office in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz said the search was continuing for the attackers.
Veracruz Gov. Cuitlahuac Garcia suggested that a gang dispute was involved in the attack.
"In Veracruz, criminal gangs are no longer tolerated," Garcia wrote of the attack, adding police, the armed forces and newly formed National Guard are searching for the attackers.
State police identified the establishment as the "Bar Caballo Blanco."
The tatty bar is located in a storefront on a busy commercial street in Coatzacoalcos, a city whose main industry has long been oil and oil refining.
The fire may have been started with gasoline bombs.
It came almost eight years to the day after a fire at a casino in the northern city of Monterrey killed 52 people. The Zetas drug cartel staged that 2011 attack to enforce demands for protection payments.
The Zetas, now splintered, have also been active in Coatzacoalcos.
The attack, along with the killing of 19 people in the western city of Uruapan earlier this month, is likely to renew fears that the violence of the 2006-2012 drug war has returned.
Jacunda National Forest, Aug 27 (AP/UNB) — Equipped with hoses connected to rubber backpacks, Brazilian firefighters in the Amazon on Monday raced in a truck along dirt roads toward plumes of smoke after a spotter in a military helicopter directed them to a fast-spreading fire.
A landowner opened the gate of a barbed wire fence and the firefighters set to work, dousing a conflagration they believed was intentionally set to prepare land for crops or pasture. When their water supply ran out, they made a fire break, clearing brush with machetes and chainsaws to starve the blaze of its fuel.
The smoke-shrouded scene near the lush Jacunda national forest in the Amazonian state of Rondonia, witnessed by an Associated Press team, showed the enormity of the challenge ahead: putting out a multitude of blazes and safeguarding — in the long term — a vast region described by world leaders as critical to the health of the planet.
The country's National Space Research Institute, which monitors deforestation, has recorded that the number of fires has risen by 85% to more than 77,000 in the last year, a record since the institute began keeping track in 2013. About half of the fires have been in the Amazon region, with many in just the past month.
At a summit in France, the Group of Seven nations pledged $20 million on Monday to help fight the flames in the Amazon and protect the rainforest, in addition to a separate $12 million from Britain and $11 million from Canada.
The international pledges came despite tensions between European countries and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has accused rich countries of treating the region like a "colony" and suggested the West is angling to exploit Brazil's natural resources.
But the funds, which are widely seen as critical support, are still a relatively meager amount for dealing with an environmental crisis that threatens what French President Emmanuel Macron has called "the lungs of the planet."
The AP team drove for hours at a stretch outside the Rondonia capital of Porto Velho without seeing any major fires, suggesting that many had been extinguished or burned themselves out since rapidly spreading in recent weeks. Many fires were set in already deforested areas to clear land for farming and livestock.
Still, smoke billowed from charred fields and scrub, shrouding the sky. The airport in Porto Velho closed for more than one hour on Monday morning because of poor visibility caused by the haze.
Under international pressure to act, Bolsonaro said he might visit the Amazon region this week to check on firefighting efforts and would make 44,000 troops available to fight the blazes. However, the military presence in the area seemed scarce on Monday, with only a few soldiers seen patrolling roads and lending a hand.
At dawn, the blazing sun was hidden under thick smoke that blanketed the horizon like fog. Trucks carrying fresh timber sped through a road that cut through lands where heaps of ash were piled around charred logs.
Some local residents seemed torn between knowing that the fires were devastating the environment around them, and needing to extract the Amazon's rich natural resources to make a living.
"We have to preserve the land. The government has to help small farmers more, prioritize and take care of the large reserves, where people do most of the illegal things," said Willian Sabara Dos Santos, a farm manager. Behind him, a Brazilian flag on a pole fluttered in the wind next to a statue of a bull that he said was a replica of the iconic "Charging Bull" sculpture on New York's Wall Street.
In a nearby village, Darcy Rodrigo De Souza walked barefoot into a shop where people drank coffee and ate Pao de Queijo, traditional Brazilian cheese bread, on a street named "New Progress."
"We have many problems with the fires. But we also depend on the wood for our economy. If it wasn't for that, there would be nothing," said De Souza, who wore a straw hat. "It's true that the Amazon has to be protected, but this president is going to protect it. The Americans want us to protect Brazil. But why don't they protect their stuff?"
About 60% of the Amazon region is in Brazil; although the vast forest also spans parts of Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru and Suriname. The Amazon's rainforests are a major absorber of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and described by environmentalists as a critical defense against climate change.
On Monday, army Maj. Fabio da Paixão Pinheiro said officials have determined that the fires around Porto Velho have decreased as a result of rains over the last couple of days.
But near the Jacunda national forest, thunder boomed as firefighters worked to suffocate flames that continued to burn into the evening.
One fireman prayed for rain as he put on a protective mask. All around him, the heavy smell of burning wood permeated the air, making it hard to breathe.