Thursday, April 21, 2016

Pop Icon Prince Dead at 57by (VOA News) Thursday April 21st, 2016 at 1:31 PM

Pop Icon Prince Dead at 57

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American pop icon Prince has died at the age of 57. Details on this breaking story are still coming in.

Permanent US armored force in Europe would better deter Russia: U.S. general

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An armored U.S. military brigade permanently stationed in Europe would be more effective at deterring Russian aggression in the region than the current rotational presence, the Army general nominated to lead U.S. forces in Europe said on Thursday.

Award-winning Syrian opposition activist denied US entry

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An award-winning Syrian opposition activist says he’s been denied entry and turned back from the United States for unspecified reasons.

Reading The Terrorism Tea Leaves

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It's not clear whether the Islamic State militant group is being defeated militarily, but it's even less clear whether the extremists' other power -- the power of its ideology -- has suffered setbacks.

Iran Wants Repayment After Sanctions Lift

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As the world changes for Iran post-sanctions, it’s paying calls to those who benefitted from the country’s sanction shackles in one way or another, and India—whose refiners are said to owe Iran $6.5 billion worth of euros—is its first port of call. But it’s much more than that as Iran re-stakes its claim to oil-based power.
Under sanctions, Iran was limited in how it could sell its oil and accept payment, but now that payment channels have been reopened, Tehran is seeking past dues in euros, particularly from Indian-based refiners such as Essar Oil, Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd (MPRL).
And India, for its part, has every reason to pay these past dues if it hopes to take its new energy relations with Iran to the next level.
Iran has made clear that it will continue to increase output until it has regained much of the market share it lost under sanctions. It wants to pump 4 million barrels a day—up from 3.3 million at present.
India is set to import at least 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Iranian oil in the year from April 1, with refiners looking to ramp up purchases in the post-sanctions environment.
India’s state refiners—Indian Oil Corp, Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum—are willing to buy about 240,000 bpd in the year (starting from April). Among private refiners, Essar Oil is willing to lift about 120,000 bpd, they said, while HMEL has indicated it will buy a small quantity with an option to raise volumes.
Reports indicate that India has already earmarked at least $20 billion for investments in oil and gas as well as petrochemicals and fertilisers sectors in Iran. India, too, plans to increase oil imports from Iran from the present 350,000 barrels a day.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Vikas Swarup was optimistic when he indicated that the “energy partnership would go both ways” as Iran was eyeing involvement in India’s refinery sector.
Both countries had maintained close bilateral ties even when economic restrictions were in place against Iran. With the new found opportunities to speed up long-standing bilateral and multilateral initiatives that would boost Iran’s fledgling economy, pressure is likely to be on the production of oil, which might put more pressure on oil prices, which have dropped 70 percent since 2014.
The latest achivement is the upcoming trilateral agreement with India and Afghanistan, which aims to offer access to both neighbouring countries through the strategically located Iranian Chabahar port in the Gulf of Oman. The port in southeast Iran will allow India to bypass Pakistan to transport goods to Afghanistan and the Central Asian region using a sea-land route.
Chabahar port would provide a vital transport link for receiving unhindered natural gas imports from Iran to India. It may also play a role in finalising the proposed Iran-Oman-India pipeline.
With world’s fourth largest proven oil reserves, Iran is presently eyeing Indian shores as its main oil exporter country since demand in this energy-starved Asian major is expected to rise exponentially in the coming decades.
So while there won’t be any more freebies for India in terms of zero-cost oil shipping courtesy of Iran, we’re watching a new phase in Iran-India energy relations unfold, to boost the power of both and remap the South Asian energy route.
But there will be some other hurdles along the path to power for Iran, and one of the hurdles for now is tanker capacity. Right now, the lion’s share of Iran’s oil tankers are busy storing crude, or simply not seaworthy—so increasing exports is sometimes easier said than done. This year, Iran’s sales of crude oil will reach 2 million barrels per day, according to Iranian officials.
According to Reuters, Iran has 55-60 oil tankers, but 25-27 of those are parked in sea lanes languishing with stored, unsold cargo.
At the same time, Iranian lawmakers have endorsed the government’s new $330-billion budget bill, which would allow the government to set the price of oil at $40 per barrel and to export 2.25 million barrels per day, so officials say.
This article originally appeared on
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Israel says attack on Jerusalem bus was Hamas suicide bombing

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel said on Thursday that an attack on a Jerusalem bus this week that wounded 15 people was a suicide bombing, the first such attack in years.
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Page 2

Death at Prince's Paisley Park: police - Entertainment Weekly

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The Sun

Death at Prince's Paisley Park: police
Entertainment Weekly
Jason Kamerund, the Chief Deputy of the Carver County Police department confirmed the investigation to EW. The sheriff's office responded to a medical emergency at the location on Thursday morning at 9:43 a.m., and confirmed someone has died on the ...
Did Prince Die?
Police investigate death at Prince's estate Paisley
Fatality at Prince's estate in Minnesota days after musician was rushed to hospitalDaily Mail

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Iran Accuses US of Theft in $2 Billion Court Ruling for Terror Victims - New York Times

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Washington Post

Iran Accuses US of Theft in $2 Billion Court Ruling for Terror Victims
New York Times
Iran reacted furiously on Thursday to a United States Supreme Court ruling that Iran's central bank must pay nearly $2 billion to American victims of terrorist attacks, calling the ruling thievery and a new threat to any improvement in relations. A ...
Have some of the courts' power been shifted to Congress?Constitution Daily (blog)
High Court sides with families of '83 Beirut bombing victimsHouston Chronicle
Supreme Court Rules Iran Should Pay Victims Of TerrorismThe Libertarian Republic
Fortune -Washington Post -GlobalPost -Wall Street Journal
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Singer Prince dies suddenly at 57

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Singer Prince has died at his Paisley Park estate in Minnesota at the age of 57, his publicist tells AP

Today's Headlines 

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Today's Headlines

IEA: Normalized Oil Supplies Will Lead to Higher Prices

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An International Energy Agency (IEA) official predicted the worldwide glut in oil supplies would drop in the next year or two and result in a rebound of oil prices. Global oil supplies will be rebalanced by the largest cut in oil production by non-OPEC countries in a generation, IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol told reporters in Tokyo. "This year, we are expecting the biggest decline of non-OPEC oil supply in the last 25 years. "At the end of this year or the latest 2017, we expect oil markets to rebalance and prices to rebound," Birol added. A reduction in about 700,000 barrels of oil a day, coupled with growing demand from emerging economies, will lead to increases in the price of oil, he said. "Global oil demand grows [at] a healthy pace, led by India, China and other emerging countries," Birol said. But the drop in oil supplies could be offset by increased output from countries such as Iran, Libya and Russia. So any rebalancing of global oil supplies will hinge largely on cuts by U.S. oil producers, he added. "Any hope of market rebalancing from the current surplus in supply [lies] on the predicted decline in U.S. oil production," said analysts at the French bank BNP Paribas. "If the decline in the U.S. oil supply proves insufficient to tighten balances, then ... the oil price will remain low." The predictions came as Birol and other top government officials met in Tokyo to prepare for a Group of Seven (G-7) summit next month in Japan. After the meeting, Paul Stevens, a distinguished fellow at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, called for G-7 leaders to encourage oil companies to boost investment in oil production as part of a broader effort to ensure stable oil supplies.

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Грани Времени. ЮКОС: "и пораженье от победы..." - 20 апреля, 2016 

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Михаил Ходорковский считает, что решение суда в Гааге об отмене выплаты Россией 50 миллиардов долларов по иску акционеров ЮКОСа, свидетельствует о том, что "Запад решил ослабить давление". Ситуацию обсуждают адвокаты Билл Бауринг (Гаага), Павел Ивлев (Нью-Йорк), Александр Осовцов, писатель Владимир Переверзин.

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US Envoy Welcomes Advances in LGBT Rights

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Washington's first envoy for gay rights says there is an "emerging consensus worldwide that LGBT persons should enjoy the same rights as everyone else." Randy Berry said Wednesday that his first year on the job was "extraordinary," with countries around the world taking positive steps to ensure the rights of  lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people. He notably welcomed advances in Vietnam, Nepal, Mozambique and Botswana. "Nepal made history for its new constitution, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity — the first country in Asia to take that step," he said. Vietnam revised its civil code to make it easier for transgender persons to alter their legal identity. Mozambique decriminalized consensual adult same-sex relations, and courts in Botswana affirmed the right of an LGBT association to register as a formal organization. But, despite the positive notes, Berry warned "we live in a world where nearly 80 countries still criminalize LGBT conduct or relations." He singled out Russia and Nigeria as examples where "governments use LGBTI issues as a political wedge to bolster their own positions." And "in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, lesbians and transgender persons face incredibly high rates of violence and rape." Given this ongoing violence and discrimination, he said, "it’s no surprise that LGBTI individuals are fleeing their homes and their countries to avoid imprisonment, harassment, persecution, and at times, an almost certain death," as is the case in places under Islamic State control. Berry is tasked with helping countries coordinate U.S. strategy on rights for the LGBT community, as well as to highlight such issues around the world.

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Российский хакер Грибодемон осужден в США -

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Российский хакер Грибодемон осужден в США
Российский хакер Александр Панин, известный также как Грибодемон, осужден в США на 9,5 годов тюремного заключения за создание вируса SpyEye, который нанес ущерб в 1 миллиард долларов. Отдельно от Панина судом штата Джорджия был приговорен гражданин Алжира Хамза ...
Россиянин приговорен в США к 9,5 годам лишения свободыРИА Новости
Россиянина приговорили почти к 10 годам тюрьмы в СШАВзгляд
В США россиянина приговорили к 9,5 годам лишения свободы
Московский комсомолец -Российская Газета -ИА REGNUM -Свободная Пресса
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Frederick Mayer, Jew Who Spied on Nazis After Fleeing Germany, Dies at 94 

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Seven years after leaving Germany with his family, Mr. Mayer parachuted into Austria as an American spy and helped to hasten the Nazi surrender.

Outnumbered, Outranged, and Outgunned: How Russia Defeats NATO

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When asked two weeks ago in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee whether the Army was “outranged” by any adversary, U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley said: “Yes … the ones in Europe, really Russia. We don’t like it, we don’t want it, but yes, technically [we are] outranged, outgunned on the ground.”
Given Russia’s aggression in the Ukraine, this is sobering testimony. But is it accurate? Unfortunately, yes: Nearly two years of extensive wargaming and analysis shows that if Russia were to conduct a short-warning attack against the Baltic States, Moscow’s forces could roll to the outskirts of the Estonian capital of Tallinn and the Latvian capital of Riga in 36 to 60 hours. In such a scenario, the United States and its allies would not only be outranged and outgunned, but also outnumbered.
Outnumbered? While the Russian army is a fraction of the size of its Soviet predecessor and is maintained at a level of imperfect readiness, we found that it could — in 10 days or so — generate a force of as many as 27 fully ready battalions (30–50,000 soliders in their maneuver formations, depending on precisely how they were organized) for an attack on the Baltics while maintaining its ongoing coercive campaign against Ukraine.

All these Russian units would be equipped with armored vehicles — tanks, infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs), and so forth. NATO, meanwhile, would be able to respond largely with only light, unarmored, or lightly armored forces. These would consist of the forces of the Baltic republics themselves and those that the United States and its partners could rush to the scene in the few days of warning that would likely be available.
Counting the “Very High Readiness Joint Task Force” (VJTF), NATO could optimistically deploy elements from three airborne infantry brigades, one Stryker brigade, and one U.S. armor brigade. Russia would achieve initial advantages in tanks (7:1), infantry fighting vehicles (5:1), attack helicopters (5:1), cannon artillery (4:1), long-range rocket artillery (16:1), short-range air defense (24:1), and long-range air defense (17:1).
Outranged? But the problem is not just numbers. The Russians field cannon and rocket artillery with significantly longer ranges than their U.S. counterparts. Existing Army tube artillery can generally fire at targets 14 to 24 kilometers (9 to 15 miles) away. Unfortunately, the most common Russian self-propelled howitzer NATO forces would encounter in the Baltics has a range of 29 kilometers (or 19 miles). On the battlefield, these differences matter.
Moreover, at the moment, the United States has no Multiple-Launch Rocket System units deployed in Europe, but even if it were, and the range of its primary rocket is only 40–70 kilometers (25–44 miles)depending on payload. Meanwhile, Russian forces are richly equipped with two rocket artillery systems with ranges up to 90 kilometers (56 miles).
Outgunned? Here the evidence is somewhat less clear, but the situation is certainly far less favorable to the United States than it is accustomed to. While Russia’s tanks and IFVs in some cases share the same designations as those that U.S. forces encountered in Iraq in 1991 and 2003, those weapons have little in common besides the name. They have much more advanced armor, weapons, and sensors, and in some areas — such as active protection systems to defend against anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) — are superior to their Western counterparts.

If a fight broke out today in the Baltics, Russian attack helicopters, IFVs, and even some tanks could employ ATGMs with an effective range that could penetrate the armor of most if not all NATO combat vehicles, including the U.S. M1 tank. The M1s might maintain a slight advantage in the close-in fight, if they survived to get there. But given the current U.S. posture, there would at best be only a few dozen on the field, compared to about 450 Russian. The Baltic states themselves have no heavy armor, and our analysis indicates that no other European heavy forces could make it to the frontlines in time to influence the outcome of a short-warning Russian assault.
Beyond the disadvantages of being outnumbered, outranged, and outgunned, a slew of other issues compounds the problem. First, NATO allies and the U.S. military would be of limited immediate help offsetting these disadvantages. European allies followed the American lead by cutting armor and optimizing their remaining forces for “out-of-area” missions like Afghanistan. Thus, Great Britain is continuing with plans to withdraw its last troops from Germany, while Germany has reduced its army from a Cold War level of 10 heavy divisions to the equivalent of two.
But it’s not just the numbers here that matter. The United States and its partners have also steadily reduced the infrastructure necessary to support any kind of substantial deterrent or defensive effort in Europe. Today, there are no U.S. division or corps headquarters forward-based on the continent, nor any Army aviation, engineer, and associated logistics brigades. Our analysis — which assumed brigades could be received, moved to the front, and then commanded, controlled, and supported once there — may have ignored significant shortfalls in all these dimensions. Deploying brigades is not enough. Without a plan, without adequate logistics, without robust command and control, a better-prepared adversary would still overwhelm NATO.
Second, airpower has long been the U.S. trump card, and the Army relies on it to deliver fire support and protect its units from enemy air attack. This reliance has reduced the amount of artillery it deploys with its maneuver forces and, for all intents and purposes, has stripped them of organic air defenses.
While these choices were entirely sound in facing the Taliban and Iraq’s air force and integrated air defenses, Russia is an entirely different story. Russia fields perhaps the most formidable array of surface-to-air missile (SAM) defenses in the world. Operating from locations within Russian territory, these SAMs far outrange existing defense-suppression weapons and present a credible threat to U.S. and allied airpower that would be costly and time-consuming to counter. Unlike recent American wars, getting air support will not be as easy as making a call and waiting. Especially in the crucial early days of any conflict, allied ground forces may find air support available only in narrow windows of time and space.
And third, the Russians possess a credible air force of their own. Our analysis shows that Moscow could commit hundreds of fighter, attack, and bomber aircraft to an assault on the Baltic states. While such forces are ultimately qualitatively and quantitatively inferior to the alliance’s airpower, when teamed with Russia’s surface-to-air defenses, such forces could present a threat to U.S. and allied ground forces moving to reinforce or counterattack. Without ground-based air defenses of their own, and with limited overhead cover from NATO air forces, U.S. Army formations could suffer serious attrition from enemy air attack for the first time since World War II.
On top of all these issues, geography is a harsh mistress in this scenario. It’s about 130 miles from the Russian border to Riga, a distance that modern armored forces can traverse in a matter of hours. Even against fierce opposition from airpower, our analysis shows that there is simply not enough time to inflict sufficient damage to halt a Russian attack, absent sufficient NATO ground forces to slow their movement and force invaders to operate in ways that make them more vulnerable to air attack. This is intrinsically a joint fight, not one that can be won on the ground or from the skies alone.
Add in the fact that the Bush administration decided — and the Obama administration affirmed — that, beginning in 2019, U.S. forces will no longer use cluster weapons that leave more than one percent of their ordnance unexploded on the ground. While admirable on humanitarian grounds, this decision — for which there is no parallel on the Russian side — will significantly reduce the effectiveness of U.S. artillery and air fire against Russian artillery, air defense, and mechanized targets. Given the weakness of NATO’s overall posture, this is no trivial concession.
Today NATO is indeed outnumbered, outranged, and outgunned by Russia in Europe and beset by a number of compounding factors that make the situation worse. Having said that, it is possible to begin restoring a more robust deterrent posture and to do so at a price tag that appears affordable in the context of an alliance with an aggregate GDP of $35 trillion. The enlarged European Reassurance Initiative announced by the administration is a step in the right direction, though not a complete solution. Also, NATO’s European members must begin making the necessary investments to fulfill their commitments to the alliance’s collective defense; this is not just America’s problem.
It seems unlikely that Vladimir Putin intends to turn his guns on NATO any time soon. However, the consequences should he decide to do so are severe. Probably the best outcome — if the phrase has any meaning in this context — would be something like a new Cold War, with all the implications that bears. A war with Russia would be fraught with escalatory potential from the moment the first shot was fired; and generations born outside the shadow of nuclear Armageddon would suddenly be reintroduced to fears thought long dead and buried.
A situation 20 years in the making will not be solved overnight, nor will solving it be politically simple or non-controversial for an alliance consisting of 29 members with different priorities and perceptions. Nonetheless, the potential consequences of failing to do so are so dire that prudent investments — in improved posture and thoughtful, targeted modernization of the joint force — to stave them off are warranted to assure allies living next to a belligerent Russia and to provide an insurance policy against the risks of a potential catastrophe.
David A. Shlapak is a senior international research analyst and Michael W. Johnson is a senior defense research analyst at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation.
Photo credit: Aleksey Kitaev
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Outnumbered, Outranged, and Outgunned: How Russia Defeats NATO - War on the Rocks

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War on the Rocks

Outnumbered, Outranged, and Outgunned: How Russia Defeats NATO
War on the Rocks
When asked two weeks ago in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee whether the Army was “outranged” by any adversary, U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley said: “Yes … the ones in Europe, really Russia. We don't like it, we don't ...

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Russian Movement in Syria Sparks Speculation of Large-scale Operation 

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U.S. intelligence agencies have reported the movement of Russian artillery units close to the front lines in Syria, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
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NATO Chief Says Russia Keeps 'Considerable' Military Presence In Syria

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NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says Russia has kept a "considerable" military presence in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Russia Pursues Ties With Kurds to Keep Foothold in Region - Wall Street Journal

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Wall Street Journal

Russia Pursues Ties With Kurds to Keep Foothold in Region
Wall Street Journal
The Russian government says it has sent troops to fight alongside Kurdish units in northwestern Syria and is providing weapons to Iraqi Kurds, in a tactic that could upstage a long-standing U.S. alliance with the stateless ethnic group and increase ... 

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Российско-израильские отношения. Досье - ТАСС

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Российско-израильские отношения. Досье
ТАСС-ДОСЬЕ /Эльнара Гулиева/. 21 апреля в Москве запланированы переговоры премьер-министра Израиля Биньямина Нетаньяху и президента России Владимира Путина. Ожидается, что в ходе встречи стороны обсудят ситуацию в Сирии, перспективы палестино-израильского ...
Компаниям РФ интересна добыча газа на средиземноморском шельфе ИзраиляРИА Новости
Путин встретился с НетаньяхуВзгляд
Путин и Нетаньяху обсудили "красные линии" безопасностиРоссийская Газета
Известия -Газета.Ru -Аналитическое агентство "Русь Православная" -Интерфакс
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Ukraine President: Sanctions Against Russia Must Remain - ABC News

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The Moscow Times (registration)

Ukraine President: Sanctions Against Russia Must Remain
ABC News
Ukraine's president said Thursday that sanctions against Russia must stay in place as long as hostilities in eastern Ukraine continue. President Petro Poroshenko said he and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis agreed that "discussions related to ...
Russia Receives Request to Begin Procedure to Transfer SavchenkoThe Moscow Times (registration)
Russia needs to quit Ukraine before sanctions talks begin, says PoroshenkoReuters
Russia Says Received Ukraine's Query On Savchenko RepatriationRadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty

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Москва уродская 

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From: SvobodaRadio
Duration: 00:00

"Пирамиду" на Пушкинской площади сносили из эстетических соображений. Как обозначить то, что нагромоздили вместо нее? Что вообще появляется в городе вместо снесенных торговых точек? В 19 часов в прямом эфире - историк архитектуры Алексей Клименко, политик Сергей Митрохин, писатель Борис Минаев и гражданский активист Дмитрий Катаев. Ведущая Елена Рыковцева

Russia cracks down on Crimean Tatars - Deutsche Welle

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Deutsche Welle

Russia cracks down on Crimean Tatars
Deutsche Welle
It is the hardest blow that the Crimean Tatars have suffered since Russia's annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula in March 2014. On Monday, Moscow's Justice Ministry officially suspended the work of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People (pictured above).

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EU-Turkey Refugees Deal Continues to Draw Criticism

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Controversy continues over the recent agreement between the European Union and Turkey to deport newly arrived migrants in Greece back to Turkey. There are still nearly 46,000 refugees and migrants living on the Greek mainland who arrived before the agreement took effect in early April. VOA's Jane Bojadzievski has more.

Putin's National Guard May Gain Right to Shoot at Crowds

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The newly created National Guard could be given the power to shoot into crowds of people under proposals from State Duma deputies.

Pakistan Army Chief Dismisses Top Officers for Corruption

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Pakistan’s powerful military chief, General Raheel Sharif, has dismissed a group of top officers from service over corruption charges. A lieutenant-general, one major-general, and three brigadiers and a colonel were among those fired after a year-long internal army probe found them guilty of corruption, military sources confirmed to VOA. “All the officers [have been] sent home on corruption,” the sources said. The ousted officers were all serving in the paramilitary Frontier Corps...

Snowden files Norway lawsuit over award

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Lawyers for Edward Snowden file a lawsuit to seek guarantees that Norway will not extradite him to the US if he visits to receive an award.

VIDEO: Obama: 'Syria ceasefire is fragile'

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President Obama has been meeting Gulf Arab leaders at the Gulf Cooperation Council in Saudi Arabia.

Pakistan sacks 2 generals, 4 other officers for corruption

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The Pakistani army chief on Thursday sacked six officers, including two generals, after they were convicted in a court martial for corruption, officials said.
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Iran denounces as 'theft' U.S. ruling awarding Iran money to bomb victims: TV

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ANKARA (Reuters) - Iran has denounced as "theft" a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that almost $2 billion in frozen Iranian assets must be paid to American families of those killed in the 1983 bombing of a U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut and other attacks blamed on the Islamic Republic, state television reported.

Rostov Plane Crash Investigators Propose New Training on Aborted Landings

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Russian air accident investigators probing the March 19 crash of FlyDubai flight 81 at Rostov-on-Don are recommending aircrews undergo additional training on how to abort landings, amplifying earlier indications that pilot error could have led to the crash.

Israel bans special women's prayer at key holy site - Fox News

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The Times of Israel

Israel bans special women's prayer at key holy site 
Fox News
 Israel's attorney general has banned a Jewish women's prayer group from holding a special service at a key Jerusalem holy site. The group, Women of the Wall, calls for gender equality at the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray.
Attorney general bans Women of the Wall priestly blessingThe Times of Israel
Israeli Attorney General vetoes Women of the Wall's priestly blessing ceremonyi24news

Women of the Wall Barred From Holding Passover Priestly Blessing Rite at KotelForward
Jerusalem Post Israel News - Bangkok Post
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UK warns gay travellers about US laws

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The UK government warns LGBT travellers to be careful in the US due to laws affecting LGBT people in North Carolina and Mississippi.

Iran Denounces U.S. Supreme Court Ruling As 'Theft'

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Iran has denounced as "theft" a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that Tehran must pay nearly $2 billion in frozen assets to victims and families of those killed in Iran-sponsored terrorist attacks.

Trump: transgender people have right to choose bathroom – video 

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The LGBT community received an unlikely endorsement on Thursday with Republican frontrunner Donald Trump telling NBC’s Today show that transgender people should be allowed to choose the bathroom they use. Trump, who appeared live on the show, said North Carolina was wrong to pass the so-called ‘bathroom bill’ that discriminated against the LGBT community
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Russia Pursues Ties With Kurds to Keep Foothold in Region

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The Russian government says it has sent troops to fight alongside Kurdish units in northwestern Syria and is providing weapons to Iraqi Kurds, in a tactic that could upstage a long-standing U.S. alliance with the stateless ethnic group and increase Moscow’s influence in the region.
Russian and Kurdish officials say the Kremlin intends to keep a foothold in the area by cultivating ties with some Kurdish groups through weapons, ammunition and oil deals, building on its presence established through its relationship with Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The effort comes amid U.S. concerns that Russia is redeploying troops and weapons in Syria in preparation for a return to full-scale fighting in the near future.
Russian President Vladimir Putin last week said Russian soldiers have been fighting alongside Syrian Kurds around the strategic battleground of Aleppo, though American intelligence officials questioned whether those troops were on the front lines.
The U.S. relies on Kurdish militants in Syria as one of its most effective allies in the fight against Islamic State, but the intelligence officials said the Russians were supporting a Kurdish faction that has never had U.S. support.
The American officials said Mr. Putin’s announcement was likely a provocation against the U.S. and Turkey, which worries that foreign support for Kurds empowers the Kurdish independence movement at home.
Russia maintains two bases in Syria, and an unknown number of troops and aircraft, and officials say the country’s forces still provide some air support and targeting information on the ground to allies there.
Russian officials have also disclosed in recent weeks that they are supplying more weapons to Iraqi Kurds as that group gets ready to step up its fight against Islamic State and help in the eventual battle for Mosul.
The Pentagon announced Monday it would be increasing its presence in Iraq and providing an additional $415 million in aid to the Iraqi Kurdish fighters, known as Peshmerga. The U.S. currently has an advising and training mission with the Peshmerga and occasionally partners with them on special operations missions, according to Col. Steve Warren, spokesman for the Pentagon in Iraq.
But Col. Warren said the Pentagon remains unruffled by Russian overtures to the Kurds in Iraq and isn’t scrambling to counter them. “The Russians have been selling arms to various players in Iraq for 50 years,” Col. Warren said.
Mark Katz, a professor at George Mason University who focuses on Russian foreign policy affairs, said, however, that Moscow’s move might goad the Americans into stepping up the arms supply game to prevent Russians from gaining the upper hand
“Even if the U.S. hasn’t been forthcoming,” Mr. Katz said, “maybe a little competition from Russia can get the U.S. to do so.”
Russian outreach to the Kurds follows friction with Turkey. After Turkey downed a Russian Su-24 warplane late last year, Russia quickly pressed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to demand Kurdish participation in Syrian peace talks, a move seen as a direct swipe at Ankara.
Turkey is embroiled in a multi-front battle with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, the outlawed group classified as a terrorist organization by Ankara, Washington and European capitals. Ankara has watched with alarm as the U.S. and the Syrian affiliate of the PKK have deepened their ties.
Before Russia’s intervention, the Kurds had no champion and no substantial claim to be part of the peace talks. Last month, Mr. Erdogan warned Russia it was risking its own security by aligning itself with the Syrian Kurds.
In political circles, Russia’s outreach to Kurds in Iraq is raising concern about more tension between Moscow and Washington, which wants to keep Iraq a unitary state.
“Russia will take on any opportunity it can to undermine U.S. interests globally, but they don’t always think through the consequences,” said Rep. Seth Moulton (D., Mass.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “We’re concerned about the long-term stability of Iraq and I don’t think they are.”
Russian officials say their most recent arms package to the Iraqi Kurds, mostly small arms, arrived in mid-March; a delegation from Kurdistan visited Moscow this month to discuss the matter. A Kurdish delegation will also travel to St. Petersburg in June, according to the Russian ambassador to Iraq.
Authorities in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital, said they are expecting another delivery of more advanced weapons in May.
The arms deliveries are a potential sensitive point for the Iraqi government. The Kurdish Regional Government in Erbil enjoys a high degree of autonomy, but controlling arms distribution has been a key way for Baghdad to keep the Kurds tied to the federal government.
Other weapons shipments may not have to be agreed to with Baghdad, said two officials, one with knowledge of Russia’s diplomatic efforts with the Kurds and another one with close to the Russian Defense Ministry.
“There are several levels of arms deliveries,” said the official close to the Defense Ministry. “On one level, we deliver weapons only through the capital, but with an order from the president we can also bypass the capitals involved or deliver through more covert means, like a special operation.”
The Iraqi ministry of defense didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment.
Last month , during a conference in the Kurdish town of Sulaymaniyah, Staff Gen. Araz Abdul Qadir, a Peshmerga brigade commander, said the Kurds support bypassing Baghdad to get arms. “It’s a long way from Baghdad,” he said. “Make it shorter, we have an airport in Erbil.”
At the same conference, Amb. Ilya Margonov, Russia’s ambassador to Iraq, said in an interview that Moscow continues to honor its agreement to send all Kurdish armaments through the central government, but that he expected top Kurdish officials for direct talks in Moscow over the summer. He also said Moscow will likely be willing to supply weapons that require advanced training.
“If the Kurds express some desire to receive more advanced weapons we will discuss that with Baghdad,” he said.
For decades Russia, has walked a delicate balance between supporting the Kurds, and the governments of the countries they live in: Iran, Syria, Turkey and Iraq.
During the Soviet era, Moscow hosted Kurds fleeing violence in the region, notably hosting a young Masoud Barzani, Iraqi Kurdistan’s current president, after his father escaped the fall of a Soviet-backed Kurdish republic in Iran in 1946.
Kurdish fighters’ well-publicized successes against Islamic State, and a perception in the region that Americans haven’t given full-bore support, have given Moscow new reason to boost ties with a group likely to play a strong role in a new Syria.
“There is no doubt that the Kurdish factors will be one of the most important factors in the Middle East transformation in years to come,“ said Fyodor Lukyanov, head of a Kremlin advisory body known as Russia’s Council on Foreign and Defense Policy.
Write to Thomas Grove at and Ben Kesling at
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