The Russian government has issued a decree allowing young Syrians to study in Russian military schools for free if they have sufficient knowledge of Russian and pass the necessary exams.
New Syrian cadets “will be accepted in military schools after a competition, within the limits allowed by the Russian law and in line with the procedure applied to Russian citizens,” reads the document published on the official web portal for legislative information on Friday.
The decree says the Syrian side should select future cadets and conduct necessary medical tests. Applications will then be forwarded to the Russian state agency responsible for the project (most likely the Defense Ministry – the body usually responsible Russian military schools) before January 15 of the year candidates wish to begin studies. The Russian side will then decide on the number of successful candidates.
Training will be free of charge to the Syrian citizens. “The Russian side will bear all expenses on their education as well as everyday expenses,” the government decree reads. Successful candidates will also be expected to follow Russian laws and respect traditions of their host country.“While the cadets remain on Russian territory for studies they must observe Russian laws, respect the traditions and customs of various ethnic groups that live in the Russian Federation and follow the rules of staying on Russia’s territory. “The cadets’ labor can be used for cleaning classrooms and other rooms in the schools as well as the territory adjacent to these establishments,” the decree reads.
The agreement on military education between Russia and Syria will be valid for seven years and would be automatically extended for a further seven-year period unless one of the sides decides withdraw from it.
Russia first deployed an air force contingent in Syria in 2015, after receiving a request for military help from the Syrian government, which continues to battle Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and affiliated terrorist groups. Russian warplanes began launching airstrikes on terrorists in Syria on September 30, 2015. Their work has aided the Syrian military in achieving considerable success in driving jihadist forces out of the country. On March 14, 2016, President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial withdrawal of Russian forces because they had achieved all of the objectives that had been initially set for them.
In October of the same year, the Russian parliament ratified an agreement which Putin signed to keep the Russian Air Force base in Syria there on an indefinite basis. Russia has also deployed special forces and anti-aircraft systems to the area to protect the base from attack.
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On Thursday, economist and CNBC contributor Larry Kudlow was named the new director of the National Economic Council at the White House. Kudlow is a longtime advocate for low taxes, free trade, and looser immigration restrictions. Although he has softened slightly on the last two, I am hopeful he will use his new perch to continue to advocate forcefully for all of these positions.
To many in Washington and New York, Kudlow is known for being one of first supply siders. He was a supply sider when supply side wasn’t even a thing, and he has remained loyal to that way of thinking. In other words, he likes his and everyone else’s taxes low—especially as they apply to capital.
Needless to say, he was happy with the tax reform plan passed and signed into law last December, especially the reduction of the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent. Kudlow is more politically savvy than I am, so he probably had more tolerance than me for the “middle class tax relief” part of the plan. In my humble opinion, if Congress and the president won’t cut spending, they shouldn’t implement tax cuts with no apparent economic growth payoff.
When you are engaged in a tax policy battle, having Larry Kudlow on your side is an asset. He was, for example, quick to oppose the misguided Border Adjustment Tax last year, even if it meant going after longtime allies like House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). For months he was relentless in working his contacts here in Washington to stop the measure, as well as educating viewers on CNBC.
His input on taxes will be welcome in the White House, since there is still a lot that can be done to make improvements to the recently passed tax plan. Making permanent some of the provisions which are currently set to expire should be one important priority. Hopefully, Kudlow will also remind the president and members of Congress to cut spending to pay for tax reform this time around.
I assume he will also use this influence to address one of his longtime pet peeves: indexing the basis of capital gains to inflation. As he said on CNBC last summer:
Consider this: You invest $ 1,000 and, after ten years, you sell that investment for $ 1,200. But if inflation averaged 2.5 percent in that period, the $ 1,200 you receive will be worth less in real terms than the $ 1,000 you invested. And yet, under current law, you will pay a tax on your $ 200 capital gain.
The results of this policy can be perverse. “As has been well documented,” writes Alan Auerbach, University of California economist, “realized capital gains may be subject to tax rates that easily exceed 100 percent of real gains in the presence of inflation.”
If he decides to use his influence to push for that change, he will get lots of support from the free-market tax movement.
There are many good things to say about Larry Kudlow. But as it relates to this job, the best news of all might be that he is no Peter Navarro—the anti-trade Trump advisor.
Unlike Navarro, who has said that he believes it’s his job to confirm Trump’s worst anti-trade instincts, Kudlow has been a consistent advocate for free trade. When he worked at the White House under president Reagan he used to call free traders like him The White Hats. As such he didn’t hesitate to express publically his opposition to the president’s recent decision to impose punishing tariffs on steel and aluminum.
If there’s a reason to worry, it’s Kudlow’s recent endorsement of targeted tariffs for China—a country he sees as a gigantic problem for the U.S. Kudlow recently said that he is “not opposed to targeted tariffs” against the country, which he called a “Trumpian way of negotiating.”
One can recognize the tremendous challenges posed by China and still reject a policy solution that Kudlow himself rightly identifies as being equivalent to a tax hike that hurts consumers more than it helps the protected industry. And even though he now argues that the tariff are simply a shrewd negotiation tactic against China, I still question the soundness of it all as the people hurt the most from the strategy are American consumers.
A bad a policy is still a bad policy, even when directed against those you consider to be bad players on trade. Besides, China has repeatedly demonstrated that tariffs won’t change the behavior in question. So you might as well go straight to what may actually work, even if imperfectly: joining forces with other countries to get China to agree to better practices, enrolling in the World Trade Organization, and negotiating international and mutually binding agreements.
Kudlow has also evolved on immigration over the years from being pro-immigration to being friendlier to restrictionist policies. I certainly wish he would change his position on that, and start seeing the president’s anti-immigration stance as akin to a tariff on foreign labor that will ultimately hurt American consumers (of labor).
He may argue that less foreign labor is what we want, to which I would respond that—as is the case with tariffs—restricting immigration does not guarantee an increase in the demand for domestic labor. It does guarantee an increase in the cost of labor, which will hurt the small business owners who have prospered thanks to their low-cost foreign employees.
That said, his moderate skepticism toward trade and immigration could actually be an asset in this White House. As Avik Roy recently told me, “I think where he is philosophically is also perfect for this White House. He’s a supply-side Reaganite in general, but has a pragmatic streak on trade and immigration in ways that allow him to inject good policy ideas into the Trump administration.”
Like most supply siders, Kudlow doesn’t spend much time talking about the huge entitlement crisis this country faces. However, from my interactions with him over the years, I got the impression that he agrees we have a problem that won’t solve itself without reform. He just has more faith than I that economic growth can do most of the work for us. This is his chance to steer us in a solidly pro-growth direction and prove me wrong.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t note that Larry Kudlow is one of the kindest human beings in this cutthroat business we are in. I have witnessed his generosity toward others, and I have experienced it too—as have many others.
I wish him luck in this new job. He will need it.
Would you like £10,000 for doing absolutely nothing? Well, you may be in luck, provided you’re under 55. The cash boon could pave the way for everyone in the UK to receive a basic state income, according to a recent report.
A paper by the Royal Society for the encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) said the £10,000 ($ 14,000) payment, which would be split into two payments of £5,000 paid over two years, would mean that certain welfare benefits and tax reliefs would be removed.
According to the RSA report, the fiscal freebie would compensate workers for the way jobs are changing and progressing through the 2020s, “as automation replaces many jobs, climate change hits and more people face balancing employment with social care.”
The Universal Basic Income (UBI) scheme would not be means tested, but applicants would have to prove how they would use the money.
The RSA’s Action and Research Centre director, Anthony Painter, said that Britons are at risk financially with the looming threat of Brexit and other economic factors throughout the next decade.
“The simple fact is that too many households are highly vulnerable to a shock in a decade of disruption, with storm clouds on the horizon if automation, Brexit and an ageing population are mismanaged,” he said.
“Without a real change in our thinking, neither tweaks to the welfare state nor getting people into work alone, when the link between hard work and fair pay has broken, will help working people meet the challenges ahead.”
Anyone receiving the payments would not be able to claim any tax allowances. The RSA said this would act as a deterrent to prevent the wealthy from wanting to apply for the handout.
The RSA estimates the cost of the scheme at £14.5 billion a year for the whole of the UK. Over 13 years, the scheme would cost a total of £462 billion, over half of which would be paid for by government savings.
As the payment would replace government benefits such as the Child Benefit, Tax Credits and Jobseeker’s Allowance. By not spending money on the aforementioned allowances, the government could use the savings to pay into the universal fund.
A report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) into UBI said it may also be financially ruinously for the government while providing little benefit for the poor.
The report also said the UBI would lead to higher levels of poverty if the UK were to fund the financial payments using only with money saved by abolishing the current welfare benefits system.
“However, even in the case where taxes are raised significantly to pay for (the UBI) it does not significantly reduce poverty,” the OECD report said.
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The release of a report that claims Russian media outlets RT and Sputnik were a major influence on the outcome of the Brexit vote has unwittingly allowed people to see exactly how “fake news” is formed and spread on Twitter.
The self-funded report was produced by PR firm 89up, a lobbying firm that runs communications for pro-EU pressure group ‘Best for Britain,’ which is part-funded by billionaire George Soros.
At the time of writing, 89up had removed the slide-show presentation linked to the report from its site. While the agency promised more information would be released in the coming days, it has been pointed out that the initial release contained no statistical evidence in the form of tweets or articles to back up the claims being made. Twitter itself has said that it cannot find evidence of Russian Brexit meddling.
After the release of the 89up report, the findings were reproduced on ‘Byline,’ which is a website purporting to be “crowdfunded independent journalism.” Writer JJ Patrick used the headline “Russia More Influential Than Leave Campaigns During Brexit.”
The claim contained in that headline is not backed up by any part of 89up’s report. The inference of that sensationalist headline would be that RT and Sputnik were somehow more influential in Britain than Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, the Daily Mail, The Sun etc, etc. Even the most anti-Russian, pro-Brussels conspiracy theorist would wonder about the veracity of that claim.
That didn’t prevent 89up CEO Michael Harris from retweeting Byline’s story, calling it “a very good in-depth piece on our report” (Impressively, Byline’s story managed to contain more typos than 89up’s original report).
Shortly after that tweet, Political Editor of Buzzfeed UK Jim Waterson, who was clearly suspicious about the interpretation, asked Harris “Do you believe that headline?”
Harris immediately admitted that the headline was not completely accurate and that “The lack of ‘on Twitter,’ which is our caveat, is a bit problematic.” So Harris, one of the leaders behind the report, was sharing a story which he almost immediately admits was not 100-percent correct.
It was then pointed out by another Twitter user that, while 89up talked about Russian media achieving “134 million POTENTIAL impressions” linked to the EU vote, Byline had removed the key word “potential” in its report.
“Impressions” simply measure how many people may have potentially seen a tweet, even if that includes scrolling straight past it. A number of people insisted in relation to this report that it is more or less impossible to measure whether the tweets in question have any influence at all.
In its report, 89up claimed: “The Kremlin’s propaganda channels had three times more impact on Twitter than both the official Leave campaigns combined.”
Whereas the opening of the Byline report claims “New analysis by 89up.org confirms the scale of Russian media influence during Brexit vote dwarfed the main Vote Leave and Leave.EU campaigns, driving anti-EU propaganda, disinformation and fake news to influence voters.”
The claims in this opening paragraph in Byline are clearly different from its source material – enough to be misleading about what was actually being claimed. There is no mention of Twitter, for example.
While 89up cannot be held responsible for mistakes made by a separate outlet, questions should be asked about why one of the main drivers of the report was still willing to re-share information which he admits is misleading.
Incorrect or misleading information being pushed by a separate entity on social media in order to influence an audience to come to a certain point of view is exactly how fake news is spread.
Let’s say RT ran months of exclusively pro-EU messaging, would your lobbying firm be investigating “foreign interference”? What if the country had voted Remain? I’m guessing no.
— Anna Belkina (@Anabelle10021) February 12, 2018
When Harris was asked by RT’s head of communications whether he would produce a similar report if “RT ran months of exclusively pro-EU messaging,” he failed to provide an answer.
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It has been over four months since then 18-year-old Anna Chambers (not her real last name) accused two on-duty NYPD officers of raping her in the back of a police van on the night of September 15th, 2017. As emphatically as she claims she was raped and did not consent to having sex with two police officers, she asserts not only have the police continued to attempt to intimidate her but the very justice system she’s now looking to for help is set up to help the alleged rapists.
In other words, defense attorneys have been victimizing the victim, attempting to discredit her story by bringing up her past, and insist the sex between two cops was consensual. She’s endured hours upon hours of decepositions, cross-examinations, and had to explain her various social media posts and comments to defense attorneys. She’s also had to be present in the same courtroom where she says her attackers sat mere feet away from her.
The attempts to intimidate Anna started before she even left the hospital where she went to have a forensic exam performed by emergency room personnel. As statistics reveal, few rape victims ever present at the emergency room and file a police report, but when the perpetrators are police officers, surely the courage to make such accusations does not go unnoticed. The police noticed. According to Anna, there was a steady stream of police officers from varying ranks walking by her hospital room the night she was allegedly attacked.
That fateful night back in September, Anna was stopped by two of NYPD’s finest who told her she was being taken into custody for marijuana possession. Her two male friends were told to leave and the cops took only her. After the police officers reportedly told her friends not to follow the police van, the two had other things in mind for her. According to Buzzfeed News:
Anna said the detectives took turns raping her in the backseat as the van cruised the dark streets and as she sat handcuffed, crying and repeatedly telling them “No.” Between assaults, she said, the van pulled over so the cops could switch drivers. Less than an hour later, a few minutes’ drive from where it all began, the detectives dropped Anna off on the side of the road, a quarter-mile from a police station, surveillance footage shows. She stood on the sidewalk, her arms wrapped around her chest, looking up and down the dimly lit street and pacing slowly before borrowing a cell phone from a passerby to call a friend.
Surely dropping her off near the police station is not standard procedure when someone is being arrested for pot possession. But defense attorneys aren’t interested in such minor details. They’re too busy combing through her social media accounts, her sexual history, and her comments on Facebook to enter into any plea bargaining. And the law is on their side.
It turns out Anna happens to live in one of 35 states where police officers can claim sex with someone they have taken into custody was consensual. Buzzfeed News describes the situation in New York:
It is one of 35 states where armed law enforcement officers can evade sexual assault charges by claiming that such an encounter — from groping to intercourse — was consensual.
All of this means if the jury believes the police officers’ testimony over Anna’s, they’re going to walk free, probably get their jobs back, and continue to hide behind their badge when they have sex while on duty.
Anna isn’t taking it lying down. She’s been voicing her objections to being subjected to the legal system’s definition of justice. When Anna’s story was questioned by a skeptic, she replied with reason:
Listen man it doesn’t fucking matter they’re on duty police officers its a fucking violation these are the people we call for help not to get fucked.
Buzzfeed’s Albert Samaha researched the phenomena of police officers being accused of rape. He said of the 700 officers accused of sexual assault of someone in custody since 2006, only 158 officers actually had criminal charges filed against them. Of those, 26 officers had their cases dismissed or charges reduced because of the consent loophole.
Anna reportedly told Buzzfeed she came forward so that other victims will do the same. She said she wanted “to encourage other victims to come forward,” adding, “Police aren’t supposed to be doing this.” Watching her story “blowing up” reportedly leaves her optimistic the phenomena of police officers using their badge to engage in on-duty sex with detainees will cease and that more women can find justice. She said, “all it took was one voice.”
If there’s ever been a time and an occasion where politicians could make a noticeable difference with public policy it is now, in the middle of the #metoo movement. How easy would it be for legislatures all across the 35 states, where sex with detainees is legal, to pass laws banning such claims of immunity.
It is important to point out that even if the sex is consensual, the officer’s position of authority over their detainee removes the ability to consent as the threat of arrest or charges could dangle over the victim’s head as a reason to engage in sexual acts. Being threatened with jail time to have sex with a cop is hardly “consent.”
Many critics believe that not only should all police officers who have sex on duty be fired (even if it’s between co-workers) but mandatory charges and minimum sentencing for police officers should exist for any law enforcement officer who has sex with detainees.
Doing so would set a high standard of accountability for law enforcement agencies across the country, and rid the courts of such cases of he said/she said consensual sex claims. Both officers’ DNA was found on Anna’s person. She says she was raped. They say it was consensual but ignore the fact that they had kidnapped her and held her as their prisoner. The courts will now decide.
As for Anna, she says police are continuously posted outside her home in an attempt to intimidate her. She also says she was charged with marijuana possession weeks after she came forward with her rape allegations.
In late 2016, investigative journalist Abby Martin had the opportunity to interview 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi. The two discussed the hardships of living under Israeli occupation as well as Tamimi’s future aspirations. It quickly becomes apparent why her oppressors are attempting to silence the teen and her family.
A British-Iranian mother jailed in Iran has been told she is eligible for early release. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has already languished in prison for more than 18 months.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe told her husband Richard that her Iranian lawyer had told her the news. She was arrested at Tehran Airport in 2016 while visiting her Iranian relatives with her infant daughter.
She was accused of attempting to overthrow the state – a charge she has consistently denied.
She was handed a five-year jail sentence six months later for “spreading propaganda.”
UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was accused of making things worse for the British mum after he incorrectly told a Commons select committee that Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been teaching journalism in Iran on behalf of the her former employer, the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Johnson was forced to apologize after a significant backlash and calls for him to resign.
Iran tried to use Johnson’s comments to add a further five years to Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s prison sentence. She is said to be suffering from extreme anxiety and has reportedly discovered lumps in her breast.
Johnson met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif at the start of December to discuss Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case. He has since hinted that talks with his Iranian counterpart went well. It is not yet clear whether the foreign secretary’s belated intervention influenced the decision to free Zaghari-Ratcliffe. She could be home within a fortnight.
Riyadh: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri is free to leave Saudi Arabia “when he pleases”, the kingdom said on Thursday, rejecting accusations from Beirut that he was being held in Riyadh following his shock resignation.
Hariri has been in the Saudi capital since announcing there on November 4 that he was stepping down.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun this week accused Saudi authorities of “detaining” the premier.
Aoun said Thursday that Hariri`s decision to accept an invitation to travel to France could be the “start of a solution” to the crisis sparked by his resignation.
Speculation has swirled around the fate of Hariri, who is a dual Saudi citizen.
But Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters in Riyadh that Hariri was free to leave “when he pleases”.
Jubeir is the highest ranking Saudi official to comment on the situation.
Aoun has refused to accept the prime minister`s resignation from abroad.
“We hope that the crisis is over and Hariri`s acceptance of the invitation to go to France is the start of a solution,” Aoun said on the official presidential Twitter account.
“I am awaiting the return of Prime Minister Hariri from Paris for us to decide the next step with regards to the government,” Aoun added.The announcement that Hariri had accepted an invitation to travel to France and meet President Emmanuel Macron came from French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Thursday during a visit to Riyadh.
“He will come to France and the prince has been informed,” Le Drian told reporters, referring to powerful Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman with whom he held talks the night before.
Asked about the date of the visit for talks, Le Drian replied: “Mr. Hariri`s schedule is a matter for Mr. Hariri.”
Hariri in an interview on Sunday had vowed to return to Lebanon in a matter of days.
Hariri also left open the possibility that he may withdraw his resignation if certain conditions are met — in particular an end to the involvement of Lebanon`s powerful Shiite militant group Hezbollah in regional conflicts.
The French president`s office said on Wednesday that Hariri and his family had been invited to France for a “few days” but that did not mean he would stay there in exile.
Macron has stressed that Hariri should be able to return to Lebanon to confirm or withdraw his resignation in person. In his resignation statement, Hariri accused Iran and its ally Hezbollah of taking over his country and destabilising the broader region.
Hariri`s resignation came against the backdrop of mounting tensions between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran, which back opposing sides in power struggles in hotspots such as Syria and Yemen.
Many observers saw his stepping down as a power play of Riyadh against Tehran.
Le Drian raised concern over Iran`s role in the region.
At a press conference with Jubeir on Thursday, he echoed Riyadh`s concerns over Iranian “intervention in regional crises” and “hegemonic” intentions.
“I`m thinking specifically about Iran`s ballistic programme,” Le Drian added.
France has however sought to maintain a nuanced position in the region.
Macron, on his first state visit to the Middle East last week, called for vigilance towards Tehran over its ballistic missile programme and regional activities.
But he cautioned against creating a “new front” in a region already fraught with conflicts, including the war in Yemen.
The Arab League is to hold an extraordinary meeting next Sunday at the request of Saudi Arabia to discuss alleged “violations” committed by Iran in the region.