25 April 2019

USA

Thai navy tows floating home of fugitive U.S. 'seasteader'

KONFRONTASI-Thailand’s navy on Monday began towing to shore the floating cabin of a fugitive U.S. citizen and his Thai girlfriend, both prominent members of the “seasteading” movement who face possible death sentences for setting up their offshore home.

The cabin set on top of a spar 14 nautical miles off the Thai island of Phuket had been touted as milestone in the movement to build floating communities in international waters as a way to explore alternative societies and governments.

US Democrats demand Trump tax returns by April 23

KONFRONTASI-US congressional Democrats have given the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) a final deadline of April 23 to hand over President Donald Trump's tax returns.

US, China 'agree to establish trade deal enforcement offices'

KONFRONTASI-US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday that US-China trade talks continue to make progress and the two sides have basically settled on a mechanism to police any agreement, including new enforcement offices.

Mnuchin, speaking on CNBC television, said that a call with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He on Tuesday night was productive and discussions would be resumed on Thursday.

US Democrats say Barr should retract spying statement

KONFRONTASI-US Attorney General William Barr sparred with Democrats on Wednesday over whether "spying" occurred on President Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign in the United States, and said that a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the election would be out next week.

During questioning by senators, Barr said "spying" on Trump's campaign was carried out by US intelligence agencies, but he later rephrased his comments saying it was "unauthorised surveillance".

Initially using language echoing Trump's attempts to discredit Mueller's probe, Barr pulled back under questioning by Democratic Senator Brian Schatz, who said the use of the term "spying" was "unnecessarily inflammatory".

Barr, a Trump appointee, said, "I want to make sure there was no unauthorised surveillance", modifying his language.

Barr was testifying for a second day at a congressional budget hearing that was dominated by questions about Special Counsel Mueller's Trump-Russia investigation. 

He said the Department of Justice (DOJ) would release a redacted version of the Mueller report next week.

"I'm landing the plane right now," Barr said at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing. "I've been willing to discuss my letters and the process going forward, but the report is going to be out next week and I'm just not going to get details of the process until the plane's on the ground."

Pompeo calls for Gulf unity at start of Middle East tour

KONFRONTASI-US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called for unity in the Gulf region, as he kicked off his Middle East tour with a stop in Kuwait City for the third US-Kuwait strategic dialogue session.

Pompeo will seek to strengthen cooperation on defence, cybersecurity and trade, during his stop in Kuwait, his spokesperson Robert Palladino said.  

Al Jazeera's Jamal Elshayyal said the US top diplomat would also focus on creating "a breakthrough in finding a resolution to the GCC crisis" describing Pompeo's visit to Kuwait as "the most challenging part of his trip".

In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt imposed an ongoing land, sea and air blockade on Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorists. Qatar has vehemently denied these claims.

"The fact that these countries are not seeing eye to eye is stifling any sort of plans or policies the US wants to implement in the region," Elshayyal said.

US President Donald Trump initially backed the blockade on Qatar, but "it has since transpired that that was not only detrimental to the US' interests in the region but more so to the peoples' interests here in the region and the stability of the GCC," Elshayyal explained.

Kuwait has been at the forefront of trying to find a resolution to this crisis and mediate between the other Arab Gulf countries, which remains in deadlock.

Kuwait's foreign minister said that a long-awaited US peace proposal for the Middle East should factor in regional considerations and all stakeholders.

"We hope the plan will take into account the situation in the region and all the relevant parties," Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled al-Sabah told a joint press conference with Pompeo.

Pompeo took time to pose for photographs with US embassy personnel and their families and met with members of the US Chamber of Commerce, as well as with US and Kuwaiti business leaders.

He also met recent Kuwaiti graduates of US universities and exchange programmes.

U.S. says Iran missile program detribalizing Middle East

KONFRONTASI-A senior U.S. arms control official said on Tuesday that Iran’s missile program is detribalizing the Middle East and raising the risk of a “regional arms race” through the provision of such weapons to armed groups in Lebanon and Yemen.

U.S. President Donald Trump said when he quit a landmark 2015 deal that lifted international sanctions against Iran in exchange for limits on its nuclear activities that it failed to rein in Iran’s missile program or curb its regional meddling.

U.S. will not suspend Boeing 737 MAX planes after Ethiopia crash

KONFRONTASI- The U.S. aviation regulator said on Tuesday it would not ground Boeing Co 737 MAX planes after a crash in Ethiopia that killed 157 people, bucking a trend of countries around the world that have suspended the aircraft’s operations.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s acting administrator, Dan Elwell, said a review by the body “shows no systemic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft.”

The European Union’s aviation safety regulator on Tuesday suspended all flights in the bloc by the 737 MAX and a U.S. senator who chairs a panel overseeing aviation suggested the United States take similar action following Sunday’s fatal crash, the second since October involving that type of plane.

But Elwell said no foreign civil aviation authorities had provided data that would warrant action. If any safety issues are identified during an ongoing urgent review of the Ethiopian Airlines crash, the FAA will “take immediate and appropriate action,” he said.

Britain, Germany and France joined a wave of suspensions of the aircraft following the crash, followed by a similar decision by India, piling pressure on the United States to follow suit.

Boeing, the world’s biggest planemaker, which has seen billions of dollars wiped off its market value since the crash, said it understood the countries’ actions but retained “full confidence” in the 737 MAX and had safety as its priority.

The three U.S. airlines using the 737 MAX - Southwest Airlines Co, American Airlines Group Inc and United Airlines - stood by the aircraft, although many potential passengers took to social media to express concerns, asking if they could change flights or cancel.

United Airlines’ union pilots said that they had found no mechanical deficiencies in the plane in more than 23,000 flying hours.

The cause of Sunday’s crash, which followed another disaster with a 737 MAX five months ago in Indonesia that killed 189 people, remains unknown. On Monday, the FAA released details of a series of design changes and training requirements mandated from Boeing on the MAX fleet after the Indonesia crash.

There is no evidence yet whether the two crashes are linked. Plane experts say it is too early to speculate on the reason for the latest crash. Most are caused by a unique chain of human and technical factors.

AS Tak akan Beri Peluang Saudi Ciptakan Senjata Nuklir

KONFRONTASI-Seorang wakil pemerintah Amerika Serikat (AS) mengatakan Washington tidak membuka pintu bagi Arab Saudi untuk membuat bom nuklir. Washington tidak akan membantu Riyadh mengembangkan teknologi nuklir tanpa ada jaminan bahwa itu hanya akan digunakan untuk keperluan sipil.

Democratic lawmakers say U.S. military action in Venezuela 'not an option'

KONFRONTASI-Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday said Congress would oppose U.S. military intervention in Venezuela and challenged the credibility of President Donald Trump’s special envoy, Elliott Abrams, over his past embrace of American covert action.

The Democratic chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel, expressed concern about Trump’s hints that military action was an option in Venezuela, where President Nicolas Maduro is under intense international pressure to step aside and the country’s economy is in chaos.

“I do worry about the president’s saber rattling, his hints that U.S. military intervention remains an option. I want to make clear to our witnesses and to anyone else watching: U.S. military intervention is not an option,” Engel told a hearing on the OPEC nation.

The head of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Juan Guaido, invoked a constitutional provision to assume the presidency three weeks ago, arguing that Maduro’s re-election last year was a sham.

Most Western countries, including the United States, have recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate head of state, but Maduro’s socialist government retains the backing of Russia and China, as well as control of state institutions including the military.

Under U.S. law, Congress - not the president - must approve foreign military action. At the hearing, Democrats on the committee pressed Abrams on his views on military intervention, but questions about his credibility provoked the most heated exchanges.

Abrams, an assistant secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan, was convicted in 1991 of withholding information from Congress during the Iran-Contra scandal, in which U.S. officials secretly facilitated the sale of arms to Iran and funneled the money to rebels fighting Nicaragua’s leftist government. He was pardoned by President George H.W. Bush.

Representative Joaquin Castro asked Abrams if he was aware of any transfers of weapons or defense equipment by the U.S. government to groups in Venezuela opposed to Maduro. Abrams responded that he was not.

“I ask this question because you have a record of such actions,” Castro said. “Can we trust your testimony today?”

Representative Ilhan Omar discussed U.S. support for anti-communists in Central America during the Cold War and cited Abrams’ initial dismissal of reports of the 1981 El Mozote massacre in El Salvador as left-wing propaganda.

“Would you support an armed faction within Venezuela that engages in war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide if you believe they serve the U.S. interests as you did in Guatemala, El Salvador or Nicaragua?” Omar asked.

“I am not going to respond to that question,” Abrams replied. He called her questioning a personal attack.

Abrams also drew intermittent outbursts from protesters at the hearing. “You are a convicted criminal!” one man shouted before being escorted out.

Trump dan Anggota Senat AS Cekcok Gara-gara Urusan Ranjang

KONFRONTASI- Publik Amerika Serikat (AS) gelisah karena melihat perkembangan negosiasi anggaran pemerintah. Negosiasi sempat dikatakan memasuki tahap final, anggota kongres yang terlibat dalam komite negosiasi justru kembali berseteru. Padahal, anggaran darurat untuk berbagai instansi sudah hampir habis.

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