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Trump to clear $8bn Saudi weapons sale over Iran tensions

Trump to clear $8bn Saudi weapons sale over Iran tensions

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R) said that “Iranian malign activity” required the “immediate sale” of weapons

US President Donald Trump is clearing the sale of billions of dollars’ worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, citing Iranian threats to its arch rival.

Mr Trump evoked a rarely used aspect of federal law to push through the $8bn (£6bn) deal, which would ordinarily need to be approved by Congress.

He did so by declaring that ongoing tensions with Iran amounted to a national emergency.

The move has angered those who fear the weapons may be used against civilians.

Some Democrats have also accused the president of bypassing Congress because the sale of weapons, including precision-guided munitions and other forms of bombs, would have been strongly opposed on Capitol Hill.

Weapons will also reportedly be sold to the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.

On Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notified Congress of the administration’s decision to make the sale. In a letter, widely reported in US media, he said that “Iranian malign activity” required the “immediate sale” of weapons.

“[Iran’s] activity poses a fundamental threat to the stability of the Middle East and to American security at home and abroad,” he wrote.

He said the transfers “must occur as quickly as possible in order to deter further Iranian adventurism in the Gulf and throughout the Middle East”.

But the move quickly garnered opposition. Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, accused Mr Trump of “granting favours to authoritarian countries”.

“[He] has failed once again to prioritise our long term national security interests or stand up for human rights,” he said in a statement.

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Media captionThe BBC’s Paul Adams looks at the recent developments behind the US-Iran tensions

Republican Foreign Relations Committee chairman, Senator Jim Risch, said he had been informed by the Trump administration that it planned to confirm “a number of arms sales”.

“I am reviewing and analysing the legal justification for this action,” he said.

News of the Trump administration’s decision came shortly after it announced it would bolster the US military presence in the Middle East. An additional 1,500 troops, as well as fighter jets and drones, will be deployed to the region in the near future.

Patrick Shanahan, the acting Defence Secretary, says the move was intended to counter “ongoing threats posed by Iranian forces, including the IRGC [Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps] and its proxies”.

Why are there tensions with Iran?

Tensions between the US and Iran began rising this month when Washington ended exemptions from sanctions for countries still buying from Iran. The decision was intended to bring Iran’s oil exports to zero, denying the government its main source of revenue.

Mr Trump reinstated the sanctions last year after abandoning the landmark nuclear deal that Iran has signed with six nations – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany.

Iran has now announced it it will suspend several commitments under the deal.

There has also been a spike in tensions in the Gulf more widely.

Four oil tankers were damaged in what the United Arab Emirates (UAE) said were sabotage attacks while drone attacks on two oil pumping stations in Saudi Arabia by Yemen’s Houthi rebels – who are supported by Iran – forced the temporary closure of a pipeline.

Iran denied it was behind the incidents but Rear Admiral Michael Gilday, director of the US Joint Staff, has accused the IRGC of being directly responsible.

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Buhari meets Dangote, Otedola, others in Aso Rock

President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday hosted members of the Business Community and officials of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to Iftar (Ramadan breaking of fast) at the State House, Abuja.

The Raidar Gist reports that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha and the Chief of Staff to the President, Malam Abba Kyari were among the government functionaries at the fast-breaking event.

Members of the business community in attendance of the fast-breaking meal included Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Femi Otedola, Tony Elemelu, Alhaji Isiaka Rabiu and Chief Emeka Offor.

Others were the Chairman of the Sahara Group, Kola Adesina and the Chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Alhaji Najeem Yasin.

The National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiohmole, immediate past national chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie Oyegun; the party’s National Vice Chairman, North West, Inuwa Abdulkadir and other party officials also joined the president to share the fast-breaking meal.

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Despite Supreme Court verdict, PDP governorship candidate insists poll was rigged

The governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2018 governorship election in Ekiti State, Kolapo Olusola, has insisted that the election was rigged.

This was despite the Supreme Court’s decision affirming the election of Governor Kayode Fayemi of the All Progressives Congress(APC).

The Ekiti State Election Tribunal and the Appeal Court had agreed with the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) that Mr Fayemi won the highest number of valid votes and so was validly elected.

The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the governor’s victory, putting an end to the legal battle for the governorship seat.

Mr Olusola, in a statement on the Supreme Court’s decision, congratulated Mr Fayemi on his victory but insisted that it was stolen.

While thanking Ekiti people for standing by him all through the court cases, Mr Olusola said his consolation was that “the people of Ekiti, as well as Mr Fayemi and the APC, knew I was robbed and God being God, the true story shall be told someday by those who orchestrated the theft.”

He, however, implored Mr Fayemi to exhibit the true patriotic attitude Ekiti people are known for, by “focusing on governance in the true sense of it without bitterness”

Mr Olusola, who is a former deputy governor of the state, called on PDP members in the state to put the pain of the electoral loss behind them and unite to move the party forward.

“The least expectations of Ekiti people from Fayemi and APC now is that they should reduce the people’s pains by governing well so the people do not suffer double loss having now lost their mandate freely given,” he said.

“I urge Ekiti people to maintain peace and keep hope alive, adding that everyone, including himself, will cooperate to move Ekiti forward as the state is greater than any individual.

“I am committed to Ekiti, I am going nowhere but will work side-by-side with my people until Ekiti is delivered from clutches of mindless and heartless vampires and election riggers.

“I call to all true lovers of Ekiti that time for a broad coalition to free Ekiti from those mortgaging its interests and destinies to outside forces has come. I am prepared to play my part and together we shall win. Awolowo once said, “after darkness comes glorious dawn.”

The former deputy governor was also full of praises for his boss, the former governor of the state, Ayodele Fayose and as well as all members and leaders of the PDP at the state, zonal and national levels.

“Although we lost at the Supreme Court, this has not diminished our confidence in the judiciary as the last hope of the ordinary citizens out there,” he said.

“Again I urge the good people of Ekiti to remain committed to the development of the state and trust in God for better days ahead.

“I congratulate Governor Kayode Fayemi over his election as chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum and I wish him success.”

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New minimum wage: Anglican Bishop warns governors

New minimum wage: Anglican Bishop warns governors

Rt. Rev. Akinpelu Johnson, the Diocesan Bishop of the Diocese of Lagos Mainland, (Anglican Communion), has advised states to ensure they pay the new minimum wage. NAN reports that Johnson spoke at the 1st Session of the 5th Synod of the diocese with theme: “Who is on the Lord’s Side? Let Him Come to Me”, […]
New minimum wage: Anglican Bishop warns governors

Fact-Checking Trump’s Claims on Agriculture, Trade and Poll Numbers

What Trump Said

“Net farm income, because our economy is doing so well, is forecast to be nearly $8 billion higher than in 2016.”

The Agriculture Department’s Economic Research Service recently forecast that net farm income would reach $69.4 billion in 2019, compared with $61.5 billion in 2016. Yet President Trump is omitting that farm income reached $75.2 billion in 2017, before falling to $63.1 billion in 2018.

After adjusting for inflation, net farm income in 2019 will still be among the lowest 25 percent since 1929, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. The group noted that “much is up in the air” and that farm income could fall with additional tariffs.

What Trump Said

“Agricultural exports expected to be $10 billion more than in 2016.”

While that figure is accurate — agricultural exports are projected to be $141.5 billion in 2019, compared with $129.6 billion in 2016 — the president is omitting that exports are expected to decline from 2018, when they totaled $143.4 billion. Moreover, agricultural imports are expected to increase in 2019, and the balance in agricultural trade is forecast to be the lowest in seven years.

What Trump Said

“Pelosi does not understand the bill. She doesn’t understand it, even though unions are in favor of it. Farmers, manufacturers, everybody, just about, is in favor of it.”

The president, referring to a broader free trade deal, called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, said that unions favored the pact, but most major unions have not actually voiced support for it.

The A.F.L.-C.I.O., which represents more than 12 million workers, urged its members in April to write to Congress opposing the deal in its current form.

The United Automobile Workers union, after meeting with Robert Lighthizer, the United States trade representative, in March, said in a statement that “some progress has been made” but “more work needs to be done to make this agreement enforceable and meaningful to our members and their job security.”

The president of the United Steelworkers union told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation this week that “we’re not going to be out supporting a trade deal” until it includes labor law overhaul and enforcement mechanisms.

In congressional testimony on Wednesday, a representative for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said that without additional changes, “we will be forced to oppose the revised agreement.”

When the framework of the new agreement was first reached in October, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America criticized the deal, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters declined to take a position.

What Trump Said

“A strange thing is happening: My numbers are going up. Someday, you’ll explain that to me.”

Mr. Trump did not specify any poll or time period, but his approval ratings have largely remained unchanged throughout his presidency.

During his news conference on Thursday, Mr. Trump complained of Democrats trying to “demean the Republican Party and demean the president of the United States” to sink public opinion of him, which could refer to investigations started in the House or recent chatter about impeachment. But there is little evidence that these actions have caused the president’s poll numbers to rise.

House Democrats began inquiries into a variety of topics in January. At that time, about 54 percent disapproved of him and about 41 percent approved, according to aggregated polls from FiveThirtyEight.

Discussions of impeachment increased after a redacted version of the special counsel’s report was released in April. Still, about 53 percent disapproved of Mr. Trump, compared with about 41 percent who approved.

On Thursday, Mr. Trump’s disapproval ratings were around 54 percent.

Other Claims

In addition, Mr. Trump repeated several claims that The New York Times has previously fact-checked:

  • He falsely claimed assistance provided to farmers is paid for by China through tariffs. (The cost of tariffs are largely passed onto American companies and consumers.)

  • He falsely claimed “we never saw 10 cents from China” before he enacted tariffs. (The United States has collected tariff revenue on imports since the 1700s.)

  • He exaggerated when he said that the special counsel’s investigation cost $40 million. (The investigation has cost about $25 million as of September, and half of those costs would have occurred even without a special counsel.)

  • He exaggerated when he said that his administration was on track to complete 400 miles of his border wall by the end of next year. (The mileage is inflated and relies on counting replacement projects as new wall, and on tenuous funding.)

  • He falsely claimed the military was “depleted” before he took office. (Top military brass raised questions about readiness, but spending was higher than the next seven nations combined.)

  • He falsely claimed that a mass exodus of auto companies leaving the country “all stopped” since he took office. (Announcements from automakers to increase investment or move companies back to the United States peaked in 2016.)

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Kenya refuses to overturn ban on gay sex

Kenya refuses to overturn ban on gay sex

Kenya’s High Court has blocked an attempt to overturn a law banning gay sex, in a significant set back for LGBT+ rights across Africa.

Judges claimed repealing British colonial-era laws would open the door to same sex marriage in a country and continent that continues to discriminate against LGBT+ citizens.

Many in Kenya’s gay community had hoped the court would make history by scrapping the laws and inspiring other countries in Africa to do the same. Paul Muite, the main petitioner in the case, said he would appeal the decision. 

Activists had argued the laws criminalising consensual same-sex relations between adults were in breach of the constitution because they deny basic rights. The state should not regulate intimacy between gay couples, they said. 

One law punishes “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” and prescribes up to 14 years in prison for people convicted of homosexual acts. Another says “indecent practices between males” can bring up to five years in prison. 

The laws create an environment of fear and harassment even if they are not always enforced, activists said. “The issue is violence, discrimination and oppression,” one activist, Tirop Salat, said. 

But the judges, in a unanimous ruling, said those behind the appeal had failed to prove how the laws violated their right to health, dignity and privacy and said the laws do not single out gay people. 

“Acknowledging cohabitation among people of the same sex, where they would ostensibly be able to have same-sex intercourse, would indirectly open the door for (marriage) of people of the same sex,” said the judgment read in part by Justice Roselyn Aburili. 

Activists were quick to condemn the ruling. “These old colonial laws lead to the LGBT community suffering violence, blackmail, harassment and torture. They devastate people’s lives and have no place in a democratic Kenyan society,” the Nairobi-based National Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission said after the decision was announced. 

At least half of Kenya’s LGBT+ persons have suffered physical and verbal assault, the commission said. Most assaults are not reported because people don’t have confidence that police will protect them. 

In a separate statement, the British LGBT+ organisation Stonewall called the decision “crushing news” and said some 70 countries around the world still criminalise same-sex relationships. 

Thirty-three of those are in Africa, according to Human Rights Watch, which called Friday’s ruling “a step backward in the progress Kenya has made toward equality in recent years”.

Some in Kenya, however, praised the decision as a strike against what they called “sexual perversion.” Gerald Walterfang with the Kenya Christian Professionals Forum said they were delighted with the ruling against what they termed a “destructive sexual lifestyle”.

Five most anti-LGBT+ countries in Europe, according to ILGA-Europe

Kenyan Bishop Alfred Rotich added: “LGBT is an orientation. You cannot legalise something as an orientation. If somebody has an orientation to steal money, we cannot legalise it.” 

Kenya’s courts had recently ruled in favour of LGBT+ rights. 

Last year, an appeals court ruled unlawful the use of forced anal exams to test whether two men had gay sex. In 2015, High Court judges ordered a government agency to register a rights group representing gay people, saying Kenya’s constitution recognises and protects the rights of minorities. 

Resistance to gay rights exists at the top of Kenya’s politics, however. President Uhuru Kenyatta said gay rights were “not of any major importance” and claimed the laws criminalising same-sex relations are supported by “99 per cent” of the Kenyan people. 

Additional reporting by AP

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Left-Leaning Methodist Leaders Vow ‘Resistance Tactics’ to Fight Church’s Support of Biblical Marriage

Left-Leaning Methodist Leaders Vow 'Resistance Tactics' to Fight Church's Support of Biblical Marriage

Hundreds of left-leaning United Methodist leaders and activists gathered in Kansas this week for the “UMC Next” conference to voice their opposition to the denomination’s official rejection of homosexuality and gay marriage. 

Denomination leaders voted earlier this year to strengthen their embrace of marriage between one man and one woman, laid out in the church’s “Traditional Plan.”  The UMC Book of Discipline affirms that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.” It prohibits same-sex marriages and the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals.

United Methodist clergy who disagree vowed this week to employ a “wide variety of resistance tactics” to fight back. 

“For some of us, resisting the Traditional Plan means violating the Book of Discipline. For some persons in their context, it might not,” said Ginger E. Gaines-Cirelli, senior pastor of Foundry United Methodist Church of Washington, during a press conference on the last day of the UMC Next. 

“There will need to be a wide variety of resistance tactics all leaning into and seeking to help accomplish the commitments that we have made together here.”

Adam Hamilton, head pastor of the Church of the Resurrection, also voiced his opposition to the denomination’s commitment to biblical marriage. 

He encouraged those in attendance to find ways to oppose the Traditional Plan. 

“For some, resistance is putting up a banner saying all are welcome; and for others, it may mean participating in a same-gender wedding. The hundreds of participants are all thinking about what does resistance look like in their particular context,” he said in a statement. 

All of the leaders at the conference agreed the denomination is divided. 

“Every movement has a tipping point, a game changer, a watershed moment, this is one of them,” said convening team member Rev. Junius Dotson. “In a moment none of us have experienced before and could never have fully anticipated, we have come together and held many important things in tension. We have managed ambiguity, and cared for the waves of our own emotions and reactions. It has been intense, challenging, powerful, beautiful work we have engaged together.”

The leaders ended the conference with the following four commitments:https://umc-prod-umnews.azureedge.net/-/media/umc-media/2019/05/22/20/16…
1.We long to be passionate followers of Jesus Christ, committed to a Wesleyan vision of Christianity, anchored in scripture and informed by tradition, experience and reason as we live a life of personal piety and social holiness.

2. We commit to resist evil, injustice and oppression in all forms and toward all people and build a church which affirms the full participation of all ages, nations, races, classes, cultures, gender identities, sexual orientations, and abilities.

3. We reject the Traditional Plan approved at General Conference 2019 as inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ and will resist its implementation.

4. We will work to eliminate discriminatory language and the restrictions and penalties in the Discipline regarding LGBTQ persons. We affirm the sacred worth of LGBTQ persons, celebrate their gifts, and commit to being in ministry together. 

Traditional Plan supporter Mark Tooley, president of the conservative Institute on Religion & Democracy (IRD), predicts that the UMC will split into liberal, conservative, and centrist factions.  

“It’s a question of how long it takes for that to unfold — and of who and how many go into each denomination,” Tooley told the Associated Press. “A lot of churches will be irreparably harmed as they divide.”

The Rev. Scott Hagan, a pastor from Bonaire, Georgia who supports the Traditional Plan, said the denomination needs to have a unified message so parishioners are not confused about what the church says about sexuality.

“To have each church — possibly in the same town — offering a different perspective and practice would surely be confusing to the public that comes to the church looking for guidance,” Hagan said.

The United Methodist Church claims about 12.6 million members worldwide, including nearly 7 million in the United States.

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Why NASS issued strict requirements to journalists – Akume

Why NASS issued strict requirements to journalists – Akume

The Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP) has stated that the latest guideline for journalists covering the National Assembly (NASS) was issued to block Nigerians access to information. ANRP, who disclosed in a statement signed by its spokesman Mr Sesugh Akume on Friday in Abuja, described the new requirements as “despotic, unreasonable, and an attempt to […]
Why NASS issued strict requirements to journalists – Akume

Apapa Gridlock: ‘Operation Totality’ Begins Monday

The Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) is to begin ‘’Operation Totality Enforcement’’ to ensure the timely implementation of President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive that trucks parking on Apapa roads should vacate with 72 hours.

The Chief Executive Officer of LASTMA, Mr. Chris Olakpe, made the disclosure on Friday in an interview with the Raidar Gist.

President Buhari had said that the vacation would help in clearing the gridlock in Apapa and its environs and help in restoring law and order in the area.

The vacation notice was issued on Wednesday as one of the outcomes of a meeting convened by the president and chaired by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo on April 25.

According to Olakpe, major stakeholders have met to find a lasting solution to the gridlock caused by the indiscriminate parking of articulated vehicles on roads in Apapa and environs.

‘’We are going to follow the directive to the letter. All hands must be on deck; any vehicles constituting nuisance on highways or bridges will face the wrath of the law.

‘’By Monday, May 27, we are going to commence Operation Totality to flush out articulated vehicles queuing on expressways and causing heavy traffic on the Apapa axis.

‘’LASTMA, together with other law enforcement agencies, will carry out the exercise,’’ he said.

The Lagos State Sector Commander, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Mr. Hyginus Omeje, also told NAN that the corps would be part of the presidential task team to ensure sanity on the roads.

Omeje said that FRSC would provide 200 personnel to be part of the enforcement team.

‘’We are collaborating with LASTMA and police to manage the traffic,’’ Omeje said. (NAN)

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El París Saint-Germain quiere a Vinicius Junior

El París Saint-Germain quiere a Vinicius Junior

El interés del Real Madrid por fichar a las estrellas del París Saint-Germain es algo que se lleva repitiendo ya varios años. Lo novedoso ahora es que sucede justamente al contrario ya que es el club francés quien pone su punto de mira en uno de los ‘cracks’ blancos.

No es ningún secreto par nadie el afán de Florentino Pérez por incorporar a Neymar y a Kylian Mbappé a las filas madridistas, pero ahora es el jeque del club galo el que planea un contraataque con Vinicius como principal objetivo en este próximo mercado de fichajes.

Al-Thani parece haberse cansado de escuchar todos los rumores que relacionan al brasileño y el francés con el conjunto español y por ello, según informan algunos medios, estaría preparando una oferta por la promesa carioca. Vinicius llegó a Madrid el pasado verano para, en un primer momento, formarse en el filial merengue, pero no tardó en hacerse un hueco en el primer equipo, convirtiéndose en una de las pocas luces en la gris temporada madridista.

El joven de tan solo 18 años es uno de los futbolistas con mayor proyección a nivel internacional por su descaro, regate y velocidad, habilidades que demuestra cada vez que tiene oportunidad y que hacen la boca agua al madridismo. Sin embargo, el regreso de Zidane al banquillo y la inminente llegada de Eden Hazard, a la que podrían sumarse otros nombres importantes, podrían relegar al brasileño al banquillo a partir de agosto.


El presidente del PSG ve entonces en él una oportunidad de oro para cobrar su venganza con Florentino, que podría salirse con la suya este verano cerrando el fichaje de Neymar o Mbappé. Pese a todas estas complicaciones que Vinicius pudiera encontrarse el curso que viene, él parece decidido a afrontar el reto con el objetivo de ganarse el puesto y ha dejado claro su interés por continuar en Madrid en más de una ocasión.

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