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US: President Trump instruct his administration team not to attend the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner

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Source: Reuters

President Donald Trump, who bemoaned his treatment by the news media in a flurry of tweets on Tuesday, has barred members of his staff and administration from attending the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner on Saturday, officials said.

Trump had already said he would not attend the annual dinner, instead scheduling a political rally in Wisconsin, but he had not decided whether anyone from his staff could attend.

The decision that no one from his team could participate was announced to White House staff and other representatives from the administration by White House Cabinet Secretary Bill McGinley at their morning meeting, officials said.

It set off a scramble as many staffers had accepted invitations thinking Trump would allow them to go.

“The president and members of his administration will not attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner this year. Instead, Saturday evening, President Trump will travel to Green Bay, Wisconsin, where he will hold a campaign rally,” said a White House official.

Trump, who has denounced the mainstream news media as “fake news” and routinely directs his supporters to watch the Fox News Channel, has not attended the dinner since he became president in January 2017. He has stopped his press secretary, Sarah Sanders, from conducting daily briefings.

The criticism has intensified following the release of a report from U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Russia’s role in the 2016 election.

In his report, Mueller did not establish that the Trump campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Russians to influence the election. The report provided extensive details on Trump’s efforts to thwart Mueller’s investigation but stopped short of concluding the president had committed a crime.

In a morning tweet, Trump wrote: “In the “old days” if you were President and you had a good economy, you were basically immune from criticism. Remember, “It’s the economy stupid.”

“Today I have, as President, perhaps the greatest economy in history…and to the Mainstream Media, it means NOTHING. But it will!” he said.

The White House Correspondents’ Association dinner has been attended by presidents most years since the organization was founded in 1914. The group raises money for scholarships and honors the U.S. Constitution’s “freedom of the press” First Amendment.

In recent decades, the group has had a comedian as entertainment. But comedian Michelle Wolf’s lampooning last year of White House spokeswoman Sanders, who was seated nearby, drew so much criticism that the association this year is bringing in historian Ron Chernow for remarks.

“We’re looking forward to an enjoyable evening of celebrating the First Amendment and great journalists past, present, and future,” said Olivier Knox, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association.

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24 Hours Across Africa

Iran faces sanction over uranium breach plan

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Source: Reuters

Iran said on Monday it would breach internationally agreed curbs on its stock of low-enriched uranium in 10 days — a move likely to worsen tensions with Washington — but it added European nations could still save a nuclear deal that sets those limits.

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In an indication of concern at Iran’s announcement, Germany urged Tehran to meet all its obligations under the 2015 accord. Britain said if Iran breached limits agreed under the deal then London would look at “all options”.

Close U.S. ally Israel, Iran’s arch foe, urged world powers to step up sanctions against Tehran swiftly should it exceed the enriched uranium limit.

U.S.-Iran tensions are growing following accusations by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration that Tehran last Thursday attacked two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, a vital oil shipping route. Iran denies having any role.

Iran’s Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Major General Mohammad Baqeri, on Monday denied Tehran was behind the attacks and said if the Islamic Republic decided to block the strategic Strait of Hormuz shipping lane it would do so publicly.

The secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, said Tehran was responsible for security in the Gulf and urged U.S. forces to leave the region, state TV said.

In an announcement drawing signs of Western unease, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said “We have quadrupled the rate of enrichment (of uranium) and even increased it more recently, so that in 10 days it will bypass the 300 kg limit.”

“Iran’s reserves are every day increasing at a more rapid rate,” he told state TV, adding that “the move will be reversed once other parties fulfill their commitments.”

Tehran said in May it would reduce compliance with the nuclear pact it agreed with world powers in 2015, in protest at the United States’ decision to unilaterally pull out of the agreement and reimpose sanctions last year.

The deal seeks to head off any pathway to an Iranian nuclear bomb in return for the removal of most international sanctions.

The accord requires Iran to curb its uranium enrichment capacity, capping Iran’s stock of low-enriched uranium at 300 kg of uranium hexafluoride enriched to 3.67 percent or its equivalent for 15 years.

A series of more intrusive U.N. inspections under the deal have verified that Iran has been meeting its commitments.

Urging European signatories to hasten efforts to salvage the accord, President Hassan Rouhani said its collapse would not be in the interests of the region or the world.

“It’s a crucial moment, and France can still work with other signatories of the deal and play an historic role to save the deal in this very short time,” Rouhani was quoted as saying during a meeting with France’s new ambassador in Iran.


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24 Hours Across Africa

China backs Hong kong leader

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Source: Reuters

China doubled down on its support for Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Monday after days of protests in the Chinese-ruled city over a planned extradition bill, and a source close to Lam said Beijing was unlikely to let her go even if she tried to resign.

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Lam’s attempts to pass a bill that would allow people in Hong Kong to be extradited to China to stand trial triggered the biggest and most violent protests in the former British colony in decades.

As the political crisis entered its second week, demonstrators and opposition politicians braved intermittent rain to gather near the government’s offices and call for the bill to be killed and for her to step down.

The upheaval comes at a delicate time for Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is grappling with a deepening U.S. trade war, an ebbing economy and regional strategic tension.

Hong Kong has been governed under a “one country, two systems” formula since its return to Beijing in 1997, allowing freedoms not granted to the mainland, including an independent judiciary, but short of a fully democratic vote.

Many residents are increasingly unnerved by Beijing’s tightening grip and what they see as the erosion of those freedoms, fearing that changes to the rule of law could imperil its status as a global financial center.

“The Chinese government, the central government, has always fully affirmed the work of chief executive Carrie Lam and the Hong Kong government,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a news conference.

The comments echoed remarks over the weekend from the government’s Hong Kong and Macau policy office.

“The central government will continue to firmly support the chief executive and the SAR government’s governing in accordance with the law,” he said, referring to the “special administrative region” of China.


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