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May 22, 2019
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Ivanka Trump to step down from businesses: Reports

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Ivanka Trump (File Photo | AP)

NEW YORK: Ivanka Trump, America’s incoming first daughter and wife of newly named White House special advisor Jared Kushner, will step down from the Trump Organisation and her own label, US media reported said today.

The reports came just hours after President-elect Donald Trump announced that her husband would take on a top-level job as special advisor to the incoming Republican commander-in-chief.

They suggest an effort by Ivanka Trump, vice president of development and acquisitions at the Trump Organization who set up her own company that sells clothes, shoes and jewellery, to comply with ethics laws.

The couple is destined to move from New York to Washington, reportedly snapping up a new home in an upscale suburb, but US media do not expect Ivanka to take on a formal job at the moment. Her husband’s appointment comes despite a federal nepotism law, passed after then-president John F. Kennedy appointed his brother as attorney general, that prohibits any president from hiring a relative.

Kushner’s lawyer Jamie Gorelick told the Washington Post said she was confident that the law does not apply to Kushner’s appointment. In the past, Trump aides have drawn a distinction between cabinet-level jobs and positions within the White House, suggesting that the latter carry more leeway for the president to appoint whomever he wants.

Kushner’s lawyer has said he will resign as CEO of Kushner Companies, his property development firm, and “divest substantial assets in accordance with federal guidelines.” The Post reported that while his wife plans to resign from the Trump Organization and step away from her company, she will focus — at least in the short term – on settling her family into Washington.

She came under fire shortly after the election, when her company used her appearance in a family television interview to market a $10,000 gold bracelet that she wore during the segment.

The couple’s moves to break their business ties will compound pressure on the president-elect to do the same. He is set to give his first news conference since the election on Wednesday, at which he is expected to lay out his own plans for the family business during his tenure at the White House.

Kenya arrests 2 suspects accused of plotting Nairobi attack 

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NAIROBI: Kenyan police say they have arrested two suspects accused of planning an attack in the capital, Nairobi.

Police spokesman George Kinoti gave to details of the alleged plot.

He said in a statement Tuesday that Abdulafatah Nur Ali was arrested in Nairobi with a fraudulent national identity card and refugee certificate, and that Farah Shaleh Aden was arrested in Garissa.

Kenya has seen attacks by Somali extremist group al-Shabab, which has vowed retribution on the country for sending troops in 2011 to Somalia to fight the militants. Al-Shabab has been waging an insurgency against Somalia’s weak government.

Dakota Access protest policing costs exceed $22M 

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BISMARCK: The cost of policing the Dakota Access pipeline protests in North Dakota has surpassed $22 million — an amount that would fund the state Treasury Department for two decades and $5 million more than the state set aside last year.

Protest-related funding decisions will be made by state lawmakers during the 2017 session. Leaders of the House and Senate appropriation committees say more funding will be approved, though the amount and method isn’t known.

Rep. Jeff Delzer says state officials also still hope the federal government will help with funding.

“We’re not happy at all that the federal government is not ponying up. This should be their responsibility,” said Rep. Jeff Delzer, R-Underwood, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. “But the fact of the matter is, until they pony up we have to cover those costs.”

A large encampment in southern North Dakota swelled to thousands of opponents of the four-state, $3.8 billion project over the summer, and then-Gov. Jack Dalrymple issued an emergency declaration in August to cover law enforcement expenses related to protests. There have been nearly 600 arrests in the region since August, but the encampment has shrunk since Dec. 4, when the Army said study is needed on alternative locations for the pipeline to cross a Missouri River reservoir, as well as study on the potential for a leak and tribal treaty rights.

The Standing Rock Sioux and its supporters believe the project, which is to carry North Dakota oil through South Dakota and Iowa to a shipping point in Illinois, threatens drinking water and Native American cultural sites, which Texas-based developer Energy Transfer Partners denies.

State-related enforcement costs have surpassed $20 million, with agencies such as the Corrections Department and Transportation Department using money from their own budgets with the intent of repaying it later, according to Emergency Services spokeswoman Cecily Fong. Morton County, where most of the protest activity has taken place, has another $2.5 million in costs not covered by the state, bringing the total cost to taxpayers to nearly $22.5 million. Most of the money is going to pay personnel costs.

Fong said legislation to provide money for the continued law enforcement response might include a funding ceiling, but Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he thinks that’s unlikely.

“I don’t think we will put an artificial cap on the protection of our citizens,” he said.

Twin bombings in Afghanistan's capital kill 38 

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Afghan security forces remove a damaged vehicle after two large bombings in Kabul. (Photo | AP)

KABUL: Two large bombings near government offices in Afghanistan’s capital on Tuesday killed at least 38 people, including civilians and military personnel, in the deadliest attack by Taliban insurgents in the capital in months.

Public Health Ministry official Mohibullah Zeer said another 72 people were wounded in the attack. Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said a suicide bomber struck first, followed by a car bomb, and that four police officers were among those killed.

The Taliban, who have been waging a 15-year war against the U.S.-backed government, claimed the mid-afternoon attack, which took place near government and legislative offices.

Ghulam Faroq Naziri, a lawmaker from the western Herat province, said another MP from the same province, Rahima Jami, was wounded.

It appeared to be the deadliest attack in Kabul since July, when two suicide bombers struck a demonstration held by Hazaras, a Shiite Muslim ethnic group, killing 80 people. That attack was claimed by a local affiliate of the Islamic State group.

The fighting in Afghanistan tends to taper off during the winter months, when mountain supply routes used by the insurgents are impassable.

Earlier in the day, a suicide bomber on foot struck in the southern Helmand province, killing at least seven people, said Gen. Agha Noor Kemtoz, the provincial police chief. The target of the attack was a guesthouse used by a provincial intelligence official in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital, he said.

Those killed include civilian and military personnel, and six others were wounded in the attack, Kemtoz said. A car full of explosives was found nearby.

The Taliban also claimed that attack.

In the southern Kandahar province, two explosions inside the governor’s compound killed five people and wounded another 12, including Gov. Homayun Azizi, his spokesman said. The spokesman, Samim Khpolwak, who was lightly wounded, said it was not yet clear what caused the blasts.

An attack within the heavily guarded compound would indicate a major security breach.

Kerry assails 'factless' environment, defends Obama legacy 

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WASHINGTON: Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday warned about the rise of a “factless political environment” in which policy is made on Twitter and said President-elect Donald Trump’s “America First” policy could lead to a U.S. retreat from the world. He also lamented a lack of contact with the incoming Trump administration.

At a conference focused on national security and the presidential transition, Kerry rejected criticism that the Obama administration had failed to lead in dealing with world crises. “We’ve been leading,” he said, pointing to the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris climate change agreement, response to the Ebola virus, strengthening NATO and his own unsuccessful efforts to end Syria’s civil war. He said charges that the administration mishandled the Arab Spring revolts against authoritarian leaders were wrong.

“People are not separating a remarkable transformation that is taking place globally from things that we are really responsible for,” Kerry said, blasting what he called “revisionist commentary” from critics. “We didn’t start the Arab Spring, we couldn’t have stopped the Arab Spring. There is no way the Obama administration doing anything would have changed what was happening in those countries.”

Tuesday’s event at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington is titled “Passing the Baton” and focuses on how the Trump administration will take the reins from President Barack Obama. Obama and Trump’s national security advisers, Susan Rice and Michael Flynn, were to appear after Kerry.

With only 10 days left in his tenure, Obama’s top diplomat called for a new “Marshall Plan” to help countries in critical regions around the world educate their exploding youth populations and prevent them from being radicalised.

Lack of education and the spread of misinformation, notably online, are serious threats that must be confronted to prevent a rise of “authoritarian populism” that threatens the international order, Kerry said. He accused Russia of mounting a “horrendous invasion of our democratic process” by interfering in the 2016 presidential election and said such actions must be combatted.

“One of the greatest challenges we all face right now, not just America but every country, is that we are living in a factless political environment,” Kerry said. “Every country in the world better stop and start worrying about authoritarian populism and the absence of substance in our dialogue.”

He did not mention Trump by name but took a thinly veiled shot at the president-elect’s propensity to tweet his views on policy issues.

“If policy is going to be made in 140 characters on Twitter and every reasonable measure of accountability is being bypassed and people don’t care about it, we have a problem,” Kerry said.

He said he worried that the incoming administration’s “America First” slogan might translate into “turning away” from a vast array of challenges the world faces, particularly climate change.

On the State Department’s transition, Kerry half-jokingly said it was going “pretty smoothly” because “there is not an enormous amount of it.”

He said he had yet to meet Trump’s choice to replace him as America’s top diplomat, Exxon Mobil chief Rex Tillerson. He said he expects to do so “in the near term” and still believes there is time for “an ample debriefing” before the new administration begins.

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