Daily: 20/03/2018

Командувач ядерними силами США: Росія збільшує розміщення заборонених крилатих ракет

Командувач ядерними силами США, керівник Стратегічного командування Джон Гайтен заявляє, що Росія збільшила розміщення крилатих ракет, які, як заявляють у Вашингтоні, порушують договір 1987 року про ліквідацію ракет середньої і малої дальності.

Під час слухань у комітеті Сенату з питань збройних сил республіканець Деб Фішер запитав, чи збільшує Росія виробництво і розміщення крилатих ракет. Гайтен у відповідь сказав: «Так».

Договір про РСМД вважається знаковою угодою між Сполученими Штатами та Радянським Союзом, яка створила схему перевірки відповідності ядерних арсеналів сторін. Уперше Сполучені Штати офіційно звинуватили Росію в недотриманні домовленостей ще в 2014 році, хоча експерти розвідки заявили, що нова система в Росії була розроблена ще за кілька років до цього.

1 березня президент Росії Володимир Путін у зверненні до Федеральних зборів розповів про новітнє озброєння Росії: стратегічний ракетний комплекс «Сармат», авіаційний ракетний комплекс «Кинджал», гіперзвуковий ракетний комплекс із плануюючим крилатим блоком і бойову лазерну установку.

Також він заявив про розробки ядерного озброєння. Президент Росії розповів про малопомітну крилату ракету низького польоту з ядерною бойовою частиною і непередбачуваною траєкторією польоту. Він назвав її невразливою для наявних і майбутніх систем ПРО і ППО. Крім того, Путін звернув увагу на океанську багатоцільову систему з безпілотними підводними апаратами з ядерною енергоустановкою, здатною нести ядерні заряди великої потужності.

У відповідь речниця Білого дому Сара Сандерс заявила, що оборона США і надалі «не матиме рівних», а в Державному департаменті зазначили, що використання згаданих Путіним видів ядерної зброї порушує міжнародні зобов’язання Москви, а саме Договір про ліквідацію ракет середньої і меншої дальності.

Прес-секретар Кремля Дмитро Пєсков 2 березня заперечив, що Росія порушила будь-які міжнародні пакти з контролю над озброєннями.

 

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Британський уряд вирішив поки що не запроваджувати нових санкцій проти Москви

Уряд Великої Британії вирішив поки що не запроваджувати нових обмежувальних заходів проти Москви, але розглядає можливість таких кроків у майбутньому. Про це заявив речник британського прем’єра Терези Мей 20 березня після того, як вона зустрічалася з іншими високопосадовцями і радниками на засіданні Ради національної безпеки Британії.

За словами речника, Британія вжила заходів для відстеження людей, які «могли займатися діяльністю, що загрожує безпеці Об’єднаного Королівства і союзників».

«Це включає строгі перевірки державних службовців на приватних рейсах», – заявив прес-секретар Мей.

«Є й інші заходи, які уряд і чиновники з питань безпеки активно обговорюють і готові запровадити в будь-який час», – сказала Мей на засіданні Ради національної безпеки, повідомляє BBC.

20 березня 23 російських дипломатів, яких британський уряд вирішив вислати у відповідь на отруєння колишнього російського шпигуна Сергія Скрипаля і його дочки Юлії, залишили територію Британії. Дипломати, яких прем’єр Мей назвала шпигунами, вранці сіли в три автобуси і залишили територію посольства в Лондоні. Пізніше вони сіли на літак до Москви.

Екс-розвідника Сергія Скрипаля і його дочку Юлію виявили 4 березня непритомними на лавці в парку Солсбері на півдні Великої Британії. Пізніше британські слідчі встановили, що їх отруїли нервово-паралітичною речовиною «Новачок», яку розробили в Росії. 66-річний Сергій Скрипаль і його 33-річна дочка Юлія перебувають у лікарні в «критичному, але стабільному» стані.

14 березня прем’єр-міністр Великої Британії Тереза Мей звинуватила Росію в отруєнні Скрипаля і його дочки й оголосила про вислання 23 російських дипломатів. Крім того, Мей повідомила, що представники уряду Британії і члени королівської родини не будуть присутніми на Чемпіонаті світу з футболу, що проводитимуть у Росії влітку.

Заходи підтримали в адміністрації президента США. Про розробку подібних санкцій також оголосив президент Франції.

17 березня Росія оголосила про вислання 23 британських дипломатів, скасувала відкриття генконсульства Британії в Санкт-Петербурзі, а також заявила про припинення діяльності Британської ради.

Президент Росії Володимир Путін заперечив причетність його країни до отруєння Сергія Скрипаля і його дочки.

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Україна ініціює дебати в ПАРЄ про невизнання російських виборів у Криму

Віце-президент Парламентської асамблеї Ради Європи, депутат Верховної Ради України Володимир Ар’єв заявляє, що подав заявку на проведення дебатів на квітневій сесії ПАРЄ щодо невизнання російських виборів в анексованому Криму.

«Очевидно, Україна повинна звертатися до міжнародного співтовариства, щоб засудити незаконні вибори на анексованому півострові. Принаймні я, як голова делегації в ПАРЄ, вже подав заявку на проведення поточних дебатів на квітневій сесії в Страсбурзі. Але, очевидно, ми можемо віддати перевагу підтримці термінових дебатів з розширеної тематики щодо Росії, якщо таке подання на розширену тематику зробить делегація Великої Британії», – заявив Ар’єв проекту Радіо Свобода Крим.Реалії.

Вибори президента в Росії відбулися 18 березня. За попередніми даними, Володимир Путін перемагає на російських виборах із рекордним результатом у 76,7 відсотка голосів і стає президентом вже на четвертий термін.

Російська влада також провела голосування в анексованому нею Криму, попри заперечення України і заяви міжнародних організацій і західних урядів про невизнання «виборів» на півострові.

19 березня речниця МЗС України Мар’яна Беца повідомила, що список із 140 осіб, причетних до організації і проведення голосування в анексованому Криму, передали ЄС. В Євросоюзі це підтвердили.

Верховна Рада України має намір голосувати за невизнання виборів президента Росії.

 

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WTO Members Say US Actions Threaten Trade Body’s Credibility

Nearly 50 countries expressed concern on Tuesday about the “serious threat” to the World Trade Organization posed by unilateral trade actions, a pointed reference to U.S. import tariffs that have caused a global outcry.

Delivering concluding remarks after a two-day informal meeting of the WTO members in New Delhi, Indian Trade Minister Suresh Prabhu did not refer to the United States by name.

He said members expressed deep concern over the “serious threat” posed to the credibility of the WTO, particularly on its principle of “non-discrimination” following the cycle of recent unilateral trade measures.

“In some interventions, the need for WTO members taking urgent and coordinated action to address the underlying issues was highlighted,” Prabhu said.

“It was recognized by almost all the participants that it is the collective responsibility of WTO members to address the challenges facing the system and putting it back on a steady and meaningful way forward so that it continues to serve the people of our countries.”

Calling for a united front to respond to the U.S. tariffs, WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo said the recent unilateral trade measures have the potential to escalate tensions.

“We heard today, many, many countries saying we have a concern over this. There is a potential of escalation. We should try to work in the framework of WTO,” Azevedo said.

Separately, Prabhu told reporters that the United States was committed to the World Trade Organization, even though Washington has raised concerns about the functioning of the WTO and asked for reforms.

U.S. President Donald Trump has pressed ahead with import tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent for aluminum, but exempted Canada and Mexico and offered the possibility of excluding other allies, backtracking from an earlier “no-exceptions” stance.

Prabhu also said India will bilaterally discuss import curbs on steel with the United States.

 

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Trump Congratulates Putin, Two Plan to Meet in ‘Not-Too-Distant Future’ 

President Donald Trump congratulated Russian President Vladimir Putin on his re-election during a phone call on Tuesday and the two leaders agreed to hold talks soon.

“We will probably get together in the not-too-distant future, so we can discuss arms, we can discuss arms race.” Trump told reporters before an oval office meeting with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. 

Trump said the arms race is “getting out of control,” but the U.S. “will not allow anybody to have anything even close to what we have.” Other issues that will be discussed during the bilateral meeting will be  Ukraine, Syria, and North Korea, Trump added. 

During the call, Trump emphasized denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, discussed the state of U.S.-Russia relations and resolved to continue dialogue about “mutual national security priorities and challenges,” according to the White House.  

 An official statement by the Kremlin on Tuesday said Trump and Putin discussed the importance of working together on international terrorism, limiting nuclear arms and economic cooperation.   

Putin won his fourth term in Sunday’s presidential election with 77 percent of the votes.  

Trump did not say whether he discussed Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential race and intelligence community warnings that Moscow is continuing efforts to influence U.S. elections.

Shortly after Trump’s Oval Office remarks, Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona criticized the president on Twitter.

“An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections,” tweeted McCain. “And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election.”

White House officials initially said Putin’s victory was no surprise and that the White House had no plans for Trump to call Putin to congratulate him. 

In response, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, “This should not be regarded as an unfriendly step. Putin remains open to normalizing relations with our U.S. partners, where it is of interest and crucial.”

Peskov added, “There is no reason to make a mountain out of a molehill about anything here. Lastly, there is a good old saying: ‘Sleep on it’.”

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EU Tightens Labor Laws Despite Polish, Hungarian Opposition

The European Union said on Tuesday that the right of citizens from poorer member states to work in richer ones on a low salary would be limited to 18 months under a reform of the bloc’s labor laws sought by France.

The new law, promoted by French President Emmanuel Macron and backed by Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands, among others, would rein in current rules on the so-called posting of workers, which richer EU states say undercut their labor markets.

Poorer EU states from Spain to Poland have opposed the change, saying their citizens should be allowed to work in a wealthier state on a lower salary than a worker from the host country under the bloc’s competition rules.

The deal, which had been tentatively agreed earlier this month, also introduces a two-year transition period. It is likely to be finally endorsed in April in a session in which Poland and Hungary expect to be outvoted.

Under the incoming rules, posted workers would start earning the host country salary after the maximum period allowed.

The European Parliament on Tuesday hailed the deal as a way to ensure “equal pay for equal work” but Poland’s Deputy Foreign Minister Konrad Szymanski said it was a case of more powerful EU states like France imposing their will on the others.

“Such initiatives undermine the European project because they undermine its fundamental elements – the single market, the freedom to provide services, the freedom of movement for workers,” he told reporters.

“Unfortunately, member states have not gathered enough resolve to tame such ideas.”

An estimated 2 million posted workers in the EU currently make up only a tiny fraction of the bloc’s workforce, but the issue has become politically highly sensitive.

 

 

 

 

 

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«С14» заперечує виконання «замовлень» СБУ

Праворадикальна організація «С14» прямо не співпрацює зі Службою безпеки України і не виконує її замовлень, заявив Радіо Свобода один із лідерів організації Євген Карась.

«Грошей від СБУ ми ніколи не отримували, подяк також. «Політичних замовлень» ми ніколи не виконували. Ми ніколи не маємо якихось таємних нарад з СБУ, планірок чи цілевказівок за замовленнями», – стверджує Євген Карась. 

За його словами, взаємодія з СБУ відбувається лише тоді, коли члени організації відстежують сепаратистів і «єдиний шлях діяти по закону» – це повідомити СБУ.

«Якщо ж у сепаратистів статті «МВСні», тоді ми так співрацюємо через МВС», – пояснив Карась.

15 березня на сторінці організації «С14» з’явилося повідомлення, що активісти знайшли під Києвом людину, яка нібито воювала проти України на боці підтримуваного Росією угруповання «ЛНР». У коментарях до повідомлення, зокрема, запитували – «а далі що СБУ його закриє?».

Сам Євген Карась зазначає, що його організація «послідовно і всіма методами бореться з сепаратистами і проросійськими структурами».

«С14» уперше про себе офіційно заявила 14 жовтня 2011 року на марші УПА. Організація разом із «Азовом» і «Правим сектором» внесена у перелік моніторингу Міжнародного інтернет-ресурс TRAC, що веде облік терористичних організацій. Самі «С14» пояснюють це тим, що TRAC лише «досліджує» їхню радикальну діяльність. Також «С14» відкидають звинувачення у прихильності до нацистської ідеології, які звучать від представників правозахисних і феміністичних рухів.

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Senate Committee Launches Effort to Prevent Election Hacking

With the 2018 primary season already underway, leaders of the Senate intelligence committee are launching an effort to protect U.S. elections from a repeat episode of foreign interference.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the panel, will preview some of the committee’s recommendations for improving the nation’s election infrastructure at a news conference Tuesday. On Wednesday, the committee will hold a hearing examining attempted hacks on state elections systems in 2016 and the federal and state response to those efforts.

The committee has prepared a larger report on the issue, one of what could be several reports to come out of the committee’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Burr and Warner have said this report is the most urgent because of the threat that it could happen again in 2018. It’s unclear when the full report will be released, but it is expected to include recommendations for elections officials around the country and also proposals for legislation to help ward off the hacking.

Overall, experts say far too little has been done to shore up vulnerabilities in 10,000 U.S. voting jurisdictions that mostly run on obsolete and imperfectly secured technology. Russian agents targeted election systems in 21 states ahead of the 2016 general election, the Homeland Security Department has said, and separately launched a social media blitz aimed at inflaming social tensions and sowing confusion. Top U.S. intelligence officials have said they’ve seen indications Russian agents are preparing a new round of election subterfuge this year.

There’s no evidence that any hack in the November 2016 election affected election results, but the attempts scared state election officials who sought answers about how their systems had been potentially compromised. DHS took nearly a year to inform the affected states of hacking attempts, blaming it in part on a lack of security clearances. Lawmakers in both parties have pressed the department on why it took so long.

Warner has said he thinks the process to prevent such hacking needs to be more robust, especially since President Donald Trump has not addressed the matter as an urgent problem.

“We’ve got bipartisan agreement we have to do something on this,” Warner said earlier this year.

At the hearing Wednesday, former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and current Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen will both testify.

The Senate intelligence panel has put off making any assessments about whether Trump’s 2016 campaign in any way coordinated with Russia. Though that is one part of the panel’s investigation, Burr and Warner have decided to focus on less controversial issues where all members agree.

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Scandal-hit Weinstein Co. Files for Bankruptcy Protection

The Weinstein Co. filed for bankruptcy protection on Monday with a buyout offer in hand from a private equity firm, the latest twist in its efforts to survive the sexual misconduct scandal that brought down co-founder Harvey Weinstein, shook Hollywood and triggered a movement that spread out to convulse other industries.

The company also announced it was releasing any victims of or witnesses to Weinstein’s alleged misconduct from non-disclosure agreements preventing them from speaking out. That step had long been sought by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who filed a lawsuit against the company last month on behalf of its employees.

“Since October, it has been reported that Harvey Weinstein used non-disclosure agreements as a secret weapon to silence his accusers. Effective immediately, those ‘agreements’ end,” the company said in a statement. “No one should be afraid to speak out or coerced to stay quiet.”

In a statement, Schneiderman praised the decision as “a watershed moment for efforts to address the corrosive effects of sexual misconduct in the workplace.” 

The movie and TV studio becomes the first high-profile company to be forced into bankruptcy in the nationwide outcry over workplace sexual misconduct. Dozens of prominent men in entertainment, media, finance, politics and other realms have seen their careers derailed, but no other company has seen its very survival as tightly intertwined with the fate of one man as the Weinstein Co. 

Some 80 women, including prominent actresses, have accused Harvey Weinstein of misconduct ranging from rape to harassment. Weinstein, who was fired as his company’s CEO in October, has denied any allegations of non-consensual sex.

The Weinstein Co. said it has entered into a “stalking horse” agreement with an affiliate of Dallas-based Lantern Capital Partners, meaning the equity firm has agreed to buy the company, subject to approval by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware. 

Lantern was among a group of investors that had been in talks for months to buy the company outside of bankruptcy. That deal was complicated when Schneiderman filed his lawsuit, citing concerns that the sale would benefit executives accused of enabling Weinstein’s alleged misconduct and provide insufficient guarantees of compensation for his accusers. Talks to revive the sale finally fell apart two weeks ago when the group of buyers said they had discovered undisclosed liabilities.

The Weinstein Co. said it chose Lantern as a potential buyer because the firm was committed to keeping on the studio’s employees as a going concern.

“While we had hoped to reach a sale out of court, the Board is pleased to have a plan for maximizing the value of its assets, preserving as many jobs as possible and pursuing justice for any victims,” said Bob Weinstein, who co-founded the company with his brother Harvey in 2005 and remains chairman of the board of directors.

Lantern co-founders Andy Mitchell and Milos Brajovic said they were committed to “following through on our promise to reposition the business as a pre-eminent content provider, while cultivating a positive presence in the industry.”

Under bankruptcy protection, civil lawsuits filed by Weinstein’s accusers will be halted and no new legal claims can be brought against the company. Secured creditors will get priority for payment over the women suing the company.

Schneiderman’s lawsuit will not be halted by the bankruptcy filing because it was filed by a law enforcement agency. Schneiderman said his investigation would continue and that his office would engage with the Weinstein Co. and Lantern to ensure “that victims are compensated, employees are protected moving forward, and perpetrators and enablers of abuse are not unjustly enriched.”

Other bidders also could emerge during the bankruptcy process, particularly those interested in the company’s lucrative 277-film library, which includes award-winning films from big-name directors like Quentin Tarantino and horror releases from its Dimension label. Free of liabilities, the company’s assets could increase in value in a bankruptcy.

In more fallout over the scandal, New York’s governor directed the state attorney general to review a decision by the Manhattan district attorney’s office not to prosecute a 2015 case involving an Italian model who said Weinstein groped her.

The bankruptcy process will bring the company’s finances into public view, including the extent of its debt. The buyers who pulled out of the sale earlier this month said they discovered up to $64 million in undisclosed liabilities, including $27 million in residuals and profit participation. Those liabilities came on top of $225 million in debt, which the buyers had said they would be prepared to take on as part of a $500 million acquisition deal.

The Weinstein Co. already had been struggling financially before the scandal erupted in October with a news stories in The New York Times and The New Yorker. Harvey and Bob Weinstein started the company after leaving Miramax, the company they founded in 1979 and which became a powerhouse in `90s indie film with hits like “Pulp Fiction.” After finding success with Oscar winners “The Artist” and “The King’s Speech,” the Weinstein Co.’s output and relevance diminished in recent years. The company let go 50 employees in 2016 and continuously shuffled release dates while short of cash.

Last year, the studio sold distribution rights for the movie “Paddington 2” to Warner Bros. for more than $30 million. 

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Alabama Lawmakers to Debate Arming Teachers in School

The Alabama House of Representatives will debate on Tuesday whether teachers can carry guns on campus. The latest push for school security proposed by Republican Rep. Will Ainsworth would allow designated teachers or school administrators approved by local law enforcement to carry firearms in school. Parents wouldn’t know which educators carry for security reasons. 

The bill passed in a tight committee vote last week after contentious debate during a public hearing. It’s one of multiple gun-related bills introduced in the Alabama legislature after the Feb. 14 shooting at a Florida high school that killed 17 people.

Lawmakers in at least ten other states have also proposed arming teachers or school employees. Florida passed a school safety and gun control law that included arming teachers three weeks after the Parkland massacre.

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US Supreme Court Rejects Republican Challenge to Pennsylvania Congressional Map 

The Democrats’ chances of winning back the U.S. House got a boost Monday when the Supreme Court and a separate panel of federal judges rejected Republican efforts to block newly re-drawn congressional districts in Pennsylvania.

This means the November Congressional election in Pennsylvania will likely favor Democrats over Republicans.

The Supreme Court rejected the Republican challenge without comment. 

The federal judges in Pennsylvania said they had no authority to make a ruling because it was a matter for the state legislature. 

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in December that the old congressional map was unconstitutional because lawmakers deliberately drew it up to hurt Democrats. 

The court ordered the legislature to redraw the map. When it missed  the deadline for submitting a new plan, the court came up with its own map that analysts say would likely help Democrats.

Democrats need to win just 23 seats in this November’s election to take back control of the 435-member House of Representatives from the Republicans.

Last week, Democratic candidate Conor Lamb won a stunning upset over his Republican challenger in a special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional district — a district that has been in Republican hands since 2003 — which President Donald Trump won by 20 points in 2016.

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Colombia Proposes IMF Assistance for Venezuelan Refugees

Colombia proposed on Monday that the International Monetary Fund provide assistance to help several hundred thousand Venezuelan refugees who have fled an economic and political crisis to  neighboring countries, officials at the G20 summit said.

The proposal was discussed at a meeting on Venezuela by leading finance ministers from the Western Hemisphere, the European Union and Japan, including U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

“The consensus is that the situation is extremely negative and we must by any means possible try to influence a solution to the problem and a change in Venezuela’s situation, mainly from the humanitarian point of view,” Brazilian Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles told reporters.

The fund, to be decided by the IMF next month, would only be used outside Venezuela and not by socialist President Nicolas Maduro’s “regime,” he said.

More than 500,000 Venezuelans have crossed into Colombia and 40,000 have left for Brazil as an economic meltdown worsened and opposition hopes of fair elections faded.

There were an estimated 886,000 Venezuelan migrants in South America in 2017, up from around 89,000 in 2015, the International Organization for Migration said in February.

An IMF spokesperson said of the proposal: “We look forward to subsequent discussions in which we would be involved.”

Mnuchin offered to host a follow-up meeting of the finance ministers on the margins of the World Bank/IMF Spring meeting in Washington, in April, a Treasury spokesperson said.

“The focus was on coordinating economic measures to achieve democratic political objectives in Venezuela, addressing the economic and humanitarian tragedy, and constructive responses once Venezuela allows free, fair and regular elections,” he said.

Colombia’s government was preparing a statement on the proposal, a finance ministry official said in Bogota.

The countries concerned with the Venezuelan situation also discussed sanctions and debt repayment as ways to encourage a solution to the crisis, Meirelles said.

“Some countries are already applying sanctions, like the United States. In the case of Brazil, we are owed $1.3 billion in trade financing and want that repaid,” he said. Venezuela recently paid arrears and is up to date, he added.

Other countries, led by Russia and China, favor a moratorium that would suspend Venezuela’s payments, he said. Russia and China did not attend the meeting.

Venezuela is undergoing a major economic crisis, with millions suffering food and medicine shortages, and Maduro’s government is late in paying about $1.9 billion in interest on its debt.

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Turkish Police Seize Radioactive Material, Arrest Four in Ankara

Turkish authorities have detained four men after they were found to have large quantities of a radioactive nuclear element in their car.

The element, known as Californium, was found when a car was searched in the Ankara suburb of Pursaklar on Monday during an anti-smuggling operation.

Police said the four were part of a criminal gang that intended to sell the rare material on the black market for more than $70 million. 

The Turkish press reported that the identity of the buyer of the nuclear material remains unclear.

The seized material was taken to the Turkish Atomic Energy Authority (TAEK) for further examination.  Neither the agency nor the police have revealed the origin of the highly radioactive material, which is now being safeguarded.

Californium is believed to be produced only in the U.S. and Russia. It is used in nuclear reactors, in portable metal detectors and also in medicine to treat some forms of cancer.

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White House Denies Trump Planning to Fire Special Counsel

Despite intensifying criticism from the president, the White House is denying Donald Trump intends to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, who is conducting a criminal investigation of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign’s links to Russia.

“There are no conversations or discussions about removing Mr. Mueller,” deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley told reporters Monday on Air Force One.

The spokesman acknowledged the president’s “well-established frustration” with the criminal investigation into whether Trump’s  campaign had improper contacts with the Russians.

“The president believes this is the biggest witch hunt in history,” Gidley said, echoing a tweet Trump issued earlier in the day.

In the tweets, Trump for the first time publicly attacked Mueller’s investigation, and accused James Comey, former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, of political bias.

The targeting of Mueller on social media by Trump has raised concern the president could remove him, which could prompt a constitutional crisis for the United States, according to some lawmakers, legal analysts and presidential historians.

In a tweet to members of Congress, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said, “If the President causes a constitutional crisis by firing Mueller, no one can credibly claim that they could not see it coming. The time to speak out, to defend our system of checks and balances, is now.”

Three Democratic Party U.S. senators, Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut), Michael Bennet (Colorado) and Jeanne Shaheen (New Hampshire) in recent days have also warned of such a crisis if the president attempts to shut down the special counsel’s investigation.

Some prominent Republican lawmakers were cautioning the president not to take such action.

“Leave it alone,” was Sen. Orrin Hatch’s advice to Trump.

“He has the right to do it, but it would be tremendously bad publicity,” the Republican from the state of Utah said in response Monday to a question from VOA News. “And it’s not worth it. I mean, Mueller is an honest man. If he were doing things that are dishonest or improper, that’s another matter. But he hasn’t been.”

The second-highest ranking Republican in the senate, John Cornyn of Texas, agreed it would be a “mistake” for Trump to fire Mueller as it “would produce all sorts of unintended consequences.”

Reporters on the White House South Lawn shouted questions about the special counsel at Trump on Monday as he departed and returned on the Marine One helicopter, but he did not answer.

Trump also made no reference to the investigation during a speech in the state of New Hampshire about combating the opioid crisis in America.

Meanwhile, Trump’s lawyers have given the special counsel’s office written descriptions that chronicle key moments under investigation, in hopes of curtailing the scope of a presidential interview, according to The Washington Post, citing two people familiar with the situation.

Trump’s attorneys, according to the Post, are worried that Trump, who has a penchant for making erroneous claims, would be vulnerable in an hours-long interview.

In one tweet Sunday recalling his 2016 election victory against Democrat Hillary Clinton, Trump said, “Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans? Another Dem recently added … does anyone think this is fair?  And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!”

Mueller has been a registered Republican and was named FBI director in 2001 by Republican President George W. Bush.

Mueller is generally viewed in Washington as an apolitical prosecutor, whose investigation of the Trump campaign is supported by Democrats and key Republicans, some of whom voiced their support on Sunday news shows for his handling of the probe.

 

On Saturday, Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, suggested that deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the special counsel, “bring an end” to Mueller’s investigation, resulting in media speculation about Trump’s next move regarding the probe.

 

Trump also attacked Comey, who was fired by Trump last May, and former deputy director Andrew McCabe, dismissed at Trump’s urging late Friday by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, 26 hours before McCabe was set to retire and collect his full pension.

 

Trump contends that Comey’s and McCabe’s personal written recollections of their conversations with him are fabricated.

VOA’s Michael Bowman on Capitol Hill contributed to this story.

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White House: Trump Not Scheduled to Congratulate Putin on Re-election

Hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin won re-election, White House officials said his victory was no surprise, and they have no plans for President Trump to call Putin to congratulate him on the victory. 

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said the United States will work with Russia where it can.  

“We will work to cultivate the relationship with Russia and we will impose costs when Russia threatens our interests, but we will also look for places to work together when it serves our interests,” Gidley said.

Official results Monday show Putin won his fourth term with 77 percent of the vote.The election “lacked real competition” according to International Observers in Moscow, including Ambassador Jan Petersen of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. 

Observers also said the election campaign was flawed by “restrictions on the fundamental freedoms of assembly, association and expression as well as on candidate registration and those have limited the space for political engagement.”

Putin’s most popular and formidable opponent, Alexei Navanly was barred from the ballot after organizing nationwide protests again Putin. Navalny said there were unprecedented violations, and that all over the country, the Russian government drove people to the polls to make sure turnout was high.

“You can see that the turnout, for the first time in Russian history, has moved to the morning. So most of the voters came to polls at 8 a.m. Well, it’s unlikely that any sane person could say it’s a normal course of voting. All of them were driven there. Well, we understand that happened, it was a true (organized) re-election of Putin.”

Video surfaced from a number of different polling places in Russia of people stuffing multiple ballots into boxes.

Alexander Vershbow is a former U.S. Ambassador to Russia, and a fellow at the Atlantic Council. He agreed that there was no real competition for the election.

“Candidates obviously played their roles in this political theater, so that it all looks like a competition, but it’s more of a farce than real elections. It’s a masquerade, of course.” Vershbow added: “I will be really disappointed if President Trump congratulates Putin with his win in this so-called election.”

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Trump Bans US Use of Venezuelan Cryptocurrency

The Trump administration on Monday banned all use by Americans of Venezuelan cryptocurrency, saying that its introduction is intended to skirt U.S. sanctions. In a separate move, the administration also slapped sanctions on four current and former senior Venezuelan officials accused of corruption and mismanagement.

 

In an executive order that took effect immediately upon its issuance, President Donald Trump declared illegal all U.S. transactions related to Venezuelan digital currencies, coins or tokens. The prohibition applies to all people and companies subject to U.S. jurisdiction. The move follows the introduction last month of a Venezuelan cryptocurrency known as the “petro,” for which the government says it has received investment commitments of $5 billion.

 

In the executive order, Trump said it was an “attempt to circumvent U.S. sanctions” imposed for democratic backsliding.

 

The Treasury had said in January that the petro appeared to be an extension of credit to Venezuela and warned that transactions in it may violate U.S. sanctions.

 

In February, cash-strapped Venezuela became the first country to launch its own version of bitcoin, the petro, in a move that President Nicolas Maduro celebrated as putting his country on the world’s technological forefront.

 

The petro is backed by Venezuela’s crude oil reserves, the largest in the world, yet it has arrived on the market as the socialist country sinks deeper into an economic crisis marked by soaring inflation and food shortages that put residents in lines for hours to buy common products.

Maduro had announced late last year that he was creating the digital currency to outmaneuver U.S. sanctions preventing Venezuela from issuing new debt.

 

Bitcoin and other digital tokens are already widely used in Venezuela as a hedge against hyperinflation and an easy-to-use mechanism for paying for everything from doctor visits to honeymoons in a country where obtaining hard currency requires transactions in the illegal black market.

 

The government has promised that Venezuelans will be able to use the $60 coins to pay taxes and for public services. But with the Venezuelan minimum wage hovering around $3 a month, it’s unlikely citizens will buy in large amounts.

 

In its own statement on Monday, Treasury said it was hitting the four current and former Venezuelan officials with sanctions that freeze any assets they may have in U.S. jurisdictions and bar Americans from doing business with them.

 

The four include Americo Alex Mata, a director of Venezuela’s National Bank of Housing and Habitat and coordinator of Maduro’s 2013 campaign, Willian Antonio Contreras, the head of the body that oversees price controls in the country, Nelson Reinaldo Lepaje, the head of the Office of the National Treasury, and Carlos Alberto Rotondaro, the former president of the Board of Directors of the Venezuelan Institute of Social Security.

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Uber зупиняє випробування безпілотних машин після смертельної ДТП

Компанія Uber заявляє про призупинення випробувань безпілотних машин після того, як повідомляється, сталася смертельна дорожньо-транспортна пригода за участі такого авто.

Автомобіль Uber був у автономному режимі, але в машині був оператор, коли авто здійснило наїзд на жінку у місті Темпе, штат Арізона,18 березня.

Поліція повідомила, що 49-річна жінка переходила дорогу поза межами пішохідного переходу, коли стався наїзд. Вона померла в місцевій лікарні.

Генеральний директор Uber Дара Хосуршахі висловив співчуття у Twitter і повідомив, що компанія, що базується в Сан-Франциско, співпрацює з місцевими правоохоронними органами у рамкахрозслідування.

Компанії, включаючи Ford та General Motors, значною мірою інвестують у дослідження, спрямовані на розробку безпілотних машин, за участі яких і раніше ставалися аварії.

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Уряд пропонує внести зміни до закону про запобігання корупції

Кабінет міністрів України пропонує внести зміни до закону про запобігання корупції. 

Законопроект №8158 зареєстрований на сайті Верховної Ради. 

 Як йдеться у пояснювальній записці, з метою залучення до організації управління держпідприємствами європейських фахівців законопроектом пропонується виключити іноземців нерезидентів, які претендують на посади керівника і заступника керівника, голови та члена наглядової ради деяких юридичних осіб, із числа осіб, на яких поширюються вимоги закону про протидію корупції.

Документом пропонується уточнити, що закон поширюється на керівників та заступників керівників, голову та членів наглядової ради (крім іноземців нерезидентів), виконавчого органу, одноосібний виконавчий орган юридичних осіб, державна частка у статутному капіталі яких перевищує п’ятдесят відсотків, а також осіб, які входять до складу наглядової ради держорганізації, що має на меті одержання прибутку.

Нині відповідний пункт статті 3, яку пропонують змінити, передбачає, що закон про запобігання корупції поширюється на посадових осіб юридичних осіб публічного права, осіб, які входять до складу наглядової ради державного банку, державного підприємства або державної організації, що має на меті одержання прибутку.

Закон про запобігання корупції, серед іншого, встановлює обов’язок подання е-декларацій для певних категорій осіб.

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