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Trump Ordered Strikes on Iran, Then Called Them Off

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  • President Donald Trump ordered air strikes on Iran, but later canceled the strikes after the operation was reportedly underway.
  • Trump ordered the strike after Iran shot down a U.S. drone on Thursday.
  • Iran said the drone was in their airspace, but the U.S. claimed it was in international waters.
  • In a series of tweets, Trump explained that he called off the attack after being informed that it would cause 150 casualties.

Iran Strike Ordered, Then Cancelled

President Donald Trump ordered air strikes on Iran after the country shot down a U.S. surveillance drone Thursday, but then called off the operations at the last moment.

In a series of tweets Friday morning, Trump said he called off the strikes after he was told they would cause 150 casualties, which was “not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone.”

Trump claimed that the U.S. was “cocked & loaded to retaliate” against Iran, but he stopped the attacks “10 minutes before the strike” was set to launch.

A senior administration official who spoke to the New York Times, which first reported that Trump had canceled the strikes, said that the operation was well underway when Trump decided to call it off.

“Planes were in the air and ships were in position, but no missiles had been fired when word came to stand down,” the Times reported.

The U.S. Drone and Iran

Earlier on Thursday, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said it shot down a U.S. surveillance drone that had flown into Iran’s airspace.

U.S. Central Command confirmed shortly after that the drone had in fact been shot down, but argued that it was in international airspace.  

The commander of the IRGC’s aerospace division said in an interview with Iran’s state-run broadcaster on Friday that Iran had given “warnings” to the drone before they shot it down.

“When it did not redirect its route and continued flying toward and into our territory, we had to shoot it,” he said. “Our national security is a red line.”

U.S. Central Command disputed that version of events, saying in a statement that the incident was “an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace.”

Iran on Thursday released footage it said showed that the U.S. drone was shot down in Iranian territory.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif also shared GPS coordinates that place the drone eight miles off Iran’s coast, which would place the drone inside the 12 nautical miles from the shore that legally belong to Iran under international law.

“We don’t seek war, but will zealously defend our skies, land & waters,” Zarif wrote in the tweet. “We’ll take this new aggression to #UN & show that the US is lying about international waters.”

The Defense Department responded by providing a rendered map of the drone’s flight path, which they argued showed that the drone never entered Iranian airspace.

Mixed Messages

Trump’s decision to strike Iran and his subsequent reversal is another example of the president’s hesitancy to start a conflict in the Middle East, even as more hawkish officials in his administration push for a more confrontational approach.

While meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House on Thursday, Trump spoke to journalists about Iran. When asked if the U.S. intended on striking Iran in retaliation, Trump responded, “You’ll soon find out.”

“They’re going to find out they made a very big mistake,” he said. “I have a feeling that it was a mistake made by somebody that shouldn’t have been doing what they did […] it could have been someone loose and stupid.”

He also said that it made a “big, big difference” that the drone was unmanned.

According to the New York Times, Trump’s national security advisers were divided on whether or not to respond militarily to Iran. Senior administration officials told the Times that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Advisor John Bolton, and C.I.A Director Gina Haspel were in favor of a military response.

However, top Pentagon officials worried that airstrikes could cause risk escalation, as striking Iran could be considered an act of war under international norms.

Pompeo and Bolton have often alluded to responding to Iran with military force, even as Trump has reiterated that he would prefer other alternatives.

Escalating tensions between Iran and the U.S. were further complicated in recent weeks. On Monday, Iran announced that it would exceed the amount of uranium it has been allowed to stockpile under the 2015 nuclear deal in 10 days, if European nations did not do more to alleviate U.S. sanctions imposed on Iran.

Last Thursday, the U.S. blamed Iran for attacks on two tankers off the coast of Oman. Iran denied the accusations.

Pompeo responded to the attacks during an interview with Fox & Friends on Sunday, where he said that the U.S. had not ruled out military action. “The United States is going to make sure that we take all actions necessary, diplomatic and otherwise, to achieve that outcome,” he said.

In contrast, Trump said in an interview with Fox & Friends last Friday that while Iran did attack the tankers, he was not looking for war, and instead favored engagement with the Iranian leadership.

“I’m ready when they are,” Trump said. “Whenever they’re ready, it’s O.K. In the meantime, I’m in no rush.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (Al Jazeera)

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Three Instances of Justin Trudeau in Blackface and Brownface Surface

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  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized Wednesday after TIME published a picture of him from 2001 in brownface.
  • While apologizing, he also admitted to wearing blackface during a high school talent show. Soon after, the second picture in question circulated around the internet.
  • The next day, Global News published a video of a third incident that appeared to show the prime minister in blackface again.
  • This news is expected to significantly hurt Trudeau in Canada’s election next month, which is already expected to be a close call for Trudeau’s Liberal Party.

Brownface Photo Surfaces

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is facing backlash after three separate instances of the Liberal Party leader in brown and blackface surfaced this week.

The incident first came to light on Wednesday, when TIME published a photo of Trudeau wearing brownface. According to TIME, the photo was taken in 2001 at an “Arabian Nights” themed gala at the private school where he was teaching at the time.

Source: TIME

The outlet reported that they had been given a copy of the school’s yearbook with the photo earlier this month by a businessman named Michael Adamson, who “first saw the photograph in July and felt it should be made public.”

Shortly after the story broke, Trudeau responded in a press conference, where he confirmed that the story was true.

“I shouldn’t have done that. I should have known better, but I didn’t, and I’m really sorry,” the prime minister said. “It was something that I didn’t think was racist at the time, but now I recognize it was something racist to do, and I am deeply sorry.” 

“I have worked all my life to try and create opportunities for people, to fight against racism and intolerance. And I can just stand here and say that I made a mistake when I was younger and I wish I hadn’t,” he continued.

When asked by a reporter if that instance was the only time in his life he had done black or brownface, Trudeau admitted that he had.

“When I was in high school I dressed up at a talent show and sang ‘Day O.’ With makeup on,” he said.

After that new admission, the picture in question circulated around the internet.

Source: TIME

Third Blackface Instance Exposed

Towards the end of the news conference, a reporter asked Trudeau if he would like to speak to any other instances where he had engaged in racism.

“Do you want to tell Canadian’s about any other instances where you were concerned that you were racist? Or that you had blackface or brownface on?” the reporter asked.

“I think its been plenty,” Trudeau responded, seemingly to the first part of the question. “The fact of the matter is that I’ve always, and you’ll know this, been more enthusiastic about costumes than is sometimes appropriate. But these are the situations that I regret deeply.”

“Is it the only two or are there more?” the reporter clarified.

“These are the situations that I regret deeply,” the prime minister repeated.

However, on Thursday morning, the Canadian outlet Global News published a video that appeared to show Trudeau wearing black makeup on his face and all over his body while sticking out his tongue and making faces.

Global News reported that they had received the video from a source in the Conservative Party earlier this week, but had to verify the video before publishing it.

“A senior member of the Liberal campaign confirmed it was Trudeau early Thursday morning but would not comment further,” the outlet reported, also noting that the video was taken sometime in the 1990s.

Trudeau addressed the situation again in a longer press briefing Thursday afternoon, where he apologized directly to people of color in Canada.

“What I did hurt them, hurt people who shouldn’t have to face intolerance and discrimination because of their identity. This is something that I deeply, deeply regret,” he said.

“Darkening your face, regardless of the context, of the circumstances, is always unacceptable, because of the racist history of blackface. I should have understood that then, and I never should have done it,” he added.

The prime minister also said that he did not remember any other times that he did blackface or brownface when asked by a reporter.

Response

A number of politicians and party leaders in Canada responded to the incident after TIME published the photo. 

Jagmeet Singh, the leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party, who is Sikh, addressed the photos in an interview Wednesday.

“It’s troubling, I mean, it’s really insulting,” he said. “Anytime we hear examples of blackface or brownface it’s really, it’s making a mockery of someone for what they live and what their lived experiences are.”

“I think he needs to answer for it. I think he’s got to answer the question why he did that, and what does that say about what he thinks about people who, because of who they are, because of the color of their skin face challenges, barriers, and obstacles in their life,” he added. 

The leader of the Green Party of Canada, Elizabeth May, also chimed in, saying in a tweet that she was “deeply shocked by the racism shown in the photograph of Justin Trudeau.”

Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer, who is also Trudeau’s main opponent responded in a video of his own.

“Like all Canadians, I was extremely shocked and disappointed when I learned of Justin Trudeau’s actions this evening,” the opposition leader said.

“Wearing brownface is an act of open mockery and racism, it was just as racist in 2001 as it is in 2019. And what Canadian’s saw this evening was someone with a complete lack of judgment and integrity, and someone who is not fit to govern this country.”

However, some have pointed out that Scheer has recently rejected calls for him to kick out members of his own party for making racist or homophobic comments. Earlier this week, he even said he would stand by candidates who had made offensive comments in the past as long as they apologized.

“As long as someone takes responsibility for what they’ve said, and addresses the fact that in 2019 some things that may have been said in the past are inappropriate today, that if anything that they’ve ever said in the past caused any type of hurt or disrespect to one community or another and have apologized for that, I accept that,” he said. 

“You know, I accept the fact that people can make mistakes in the past.”

Upcoming Election

This incident could not come at a worse time for Trudeau, who faces an already contentious election in one month.

Trudeau’s re-election prospects dipped earlier this year after it was revealed that his former justice minister and attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, an indigenous woman, claimed that the prime minister and an aide pressured her to reach a settlement in a criminal case against the Canadian-based engineering and construction firm SNC-Lavalin.

The criminal case in question would have prevented SNC from getting lucrative government contracts, and Trudeau argued that settling the case would save thousands of jobs.

However, many saw the incident as a prime minister, a self-described feminist who claimed to champion indigenous rights, directing his mostly male aides to bully an indigenous woman to protect a corporation that financially benefited the Liberal Party in Quebec, where Trudeau is from.

Now, experts believe that this new blackface scandal could seriously hurt Trudeau’s chances of re-election.

The prime minister fell drastically in the polls after Canada’s ethics commissioner found that he had broken the country’s conflict-of-interest law in the SNC debacle.

Even before the blackface controversy broke on Wednesday, the Conservative and Liberal parties were polling neck and neck at 34.4% and 34.2%, according to the CBC News poll tracker, which aggregates all of the other public polls.

In an already close race, experts are now saying this blackface revelation could pull not only more progressive voters away from the Liberal Party, but also centrist voters.

Canada also has a large population of people who are of South Asian and Middle Eastern descent. Those demographics have been a key source of support for the Liberal Party and Trudeau in the past, specifically in areas around Toronto, which are seen as key electoral battlegrounds for the Liberals.

With this recent controversy, it is unclear where those voter bases, which could be essential to giving Trudeau the edge he needs to be re-elected, will cast their votes next month.

See what others are saying: (TIME) (CBC) (The Guardian)

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India Bans E-Cigarettes Amid Growing Global Vaping Concerns

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  • India banned the sale, storage, production, and advertisement of e-cigarette products on Wednesday, citing concerns over an “epidemic” among youth people.
  • Penalties for violators include fines and jail sentences between 1-3 years. 
  • The ban comes amid increasing worldwide concerns over the health risks of vaping, as well as its appeal to younger generations.

E-Cigarette Ban Takes Effect 

The Indian government announced a complete ban of e-cigarette products on Wednesday out of concern over the potential health risks of vaping and its rising popularity among young people. 

“These novel products come with attractive appearances and multiple flavours and their use has increased exponentially and acquired epidemic proportions in developed countries, especially among youth and children,” said a spokesperson from India’s health ministry.

The new ordinance prohibits the manufacture, sale, storage, and advertisement of all e-cigarette products. It doesn’t actually ban the use of e-cigarettes, but essentially restricts users from buying refills for their vapes. 

Those with stocks of e-cigarettes have been warned to declare and deposit them with police. Penalties for violators of the ban include up to one year in jail and a fine of 100,000 rupees (about $1,400 USD) for first-time offenders. Repeat offenders could face up to three years behind bars, along with a 500,000 rupee fine (about $7,000 USD). 

“The decision was made keeping in mind the impact that e-cigarettes have on the youth of today,” India’s finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, told reporters in the capital, New Delhi.

Sitharaman suggested India’s youth are viewing e-cigarettes as a “style statement,” and noted that companies behind the vaping products have pitched vaping as a way to curb existing smokers off cigarettes.

Dr. Harsh Vardhan, the Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Science and Technology, Earth Sciences, called the ban a “quantum jump towards healthy living.”

Global Vaping Concerns 

E-cigarettes were previously banned in some parts of India before the ordinance was approved, following a government health advisory issued in August of last year. In May 2019, the Indian Council of Medical Research published a paper recommending a complete ban.

The ban highlights the increasing worldwide concern over vaping health risks and its popularity among young people. U.S. health officials are currently investigating a series of deaths linked to vaping, along with hundreds of cases of suspected vaping related illnesses. The CDC said this week that it activated its emergency operations center to better investigate the outbreak of lung injuries associated with e-cigarettes. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has said it is working to ban flavored e-cigarettes, also citing product flavors as a feature that appeals to younger generations. 

Michigan recently became the first U.S. state to ban flavored e-cigarettes earlier this month and New York followed suit with its own ban earlier this week.

Singapore has already banned e-cigarettes and Japan allows some vaping products but bans the sale of nicotine e-cigarette juice. 

India has 106 million adult smokers, second only to China in the world, making it a prime market for e-cigarette companies like Juul Labs and Philip Morris International to expand to. However, this ban now prevents vaping companies from moving forward with any potential expansion plans in the country. 

The ban on e-cigarettes will need formal approval from the president, though this step is typically considered a formality. According to Reuters, the Indian health ministry expects the ban to be challenged in court.

Supporters of vaping have argued that the ban will deprive smokers of a potentially less dangerous alternative to traditional cigarettes, which might cause them to revert back. However, the health ministry says it’s in the public’s best interest to ensure that younger people don’t become hooked on these products. 

Milind Deora, a former Minister for Telecom, IT, Posts, Shipping and Ports, called the ban “half-baked” in a tweet. He asked the government to take the next step and ban all tobacco products. Traditional cigarettes are legal in India, however, they are highly taxed. 

See what others are saying: (Reuters) (The Guardian) (NPR)

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Netanyahu’s Future Uncertain After Israeli Election. Here’s What You Need to Know

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  • Israel held its second election in five months, which came after its parliament dissolved itself and triggered new elections in May when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was unable to form a government.
  • With 95% of the votes counted, Netanyahu has won 32 seats, while his main opponent, Benny Gantz has won 33 seats. Neither have gained enough votes to meet the 61-seat majority required to be prime minister.
  • Once all of the votes are in, Israel’s president will decide who has the best chance to form a government.
  • Many have viewed the election as a referendum on Netanyahu, who is facing indictment over corruption and bribery charges on Oct. 2.

Israel Election

Results are still coming in from Israel’s second election in five months, which many have viewed as a referendum on long-time Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu and his Likud Party won the first election in April by a fraction of a percent, beating out Benny Gantz, the leader of the new White and Blue party.

The election, held Tuesday, comes after Netanyahu failed to form a government in the allotted time period back in May. As a result, Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, voted to dissolve itself and hold new elections.

With 95% of the vote counted, right now it looks like Gantz’s Blue and White party has just a one-seat lead over Netanyahu’s Likud party. Gantz currently holds 33 seats and Netanyahu holds 32.

Now, there are two main options for what happens next.

Option 1: Unity Government 

The first option is for the Likud and the Blue and White parties to form what’s called a national unity government. Under that system, the two parties would come up with a power-sharing agreement and pool their seats to form a majority.

But there’s a big catch here: Gantz has said he would not form a unity government with Netanyahu as the leader of the Likud as long as Netanyahu faces indictment.

Netanyahu is currently facing charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust that stem from three different corruption cases against him. He has denied the charges and is set to have a pre-trial hearing starting in just two weeks on Oct. 2.

As a result, Netanyahu is unlikely to agree to a unity government where he is not the leader. Especially because many believe he would try to get parliament to pass a last-minute immunity deal for him, something many experts say could be his only shot at avoiding possible indictment.

Option 2: Coalition Government

The second option is for Netanyahu and Gantz to try to piece together coalitions with the smaller parties to form a majority.

For that to happen, we have to look to the blocs– the alliances that parties form based on their political and ideological opinions.

There are two main blocs in Israel’s parliament: the center-left bloc, which includes the Blue and White Party, and the right-wing bloc, which includes Likud.

According to the current unofficial election results, both Gantz’s center-left bloc and Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc are expected to get 56 seats each.

Again, not enough seats for either to have a majority.

That leaves the other eight seats, all of which are expected to go to one party– Yisrael Beiteinu, a secular ultranationalist party led by Avigdor Lieberman. 

Yisrael Beiteinu’s political leanings would normally place them with the right-wing bloc. In fact, Lieberman even served in Netanyahu’s cabinet in the past. However, Lieberman has been at odds with Netanyahu and is unlikely to throw his weight behind him.

Lieberman refused to join forces with Netanyahu after he won the election back in April unless Netanyahu supported a bill that would require ultra-Orthodox men to participate in Israel’s mandatory military conscription.

But if Netanyahu had supported the bill, he would lose the support of the ultra-Orthodox, which held 16 seats he needed. All of that, of course, ultimately resulted in Netanyahu dissolving the government and holding new elections.

Again, so much power to decide the next prime minister is in Lieberman ’s hands, which is why the Israeli media often refers to him as the “kingmaker.”

Lieberman, for his part, has said he wants a unity government between his party, the Blue and White Party, and the Likud.

Netanyahu’s Hold on Power

Netanyahu remains adamantly opposed to a unity government.

Speaking in an announcement after meeting with members of his right-wing bloc, Netanyahu said the bloc “decided unanimously that we’re going forward together to negotiations that will establish a government led by me.”

“Now there are only two possibilities — a government led by me, or a dangerous government that depends on the Arabs,” he continued. “Now more than ever, with the vast security challenges that lie ahead for the country, a government must not be established that depends on anti-Zionist Arab parties. That’s our commitment to the country and to our voters.”

It should not come as a surprise that Netanyahu will try almost anything to cling to power, especially because the stakes have arguably never been higher for him. That has only been reflected in his efforts and rhetoric leading up to the election.

Last week, Netanyahu announced that he would annex part of the West Bank if re-elected. After that statement, Israel’s Central Election Committee fined the Likud $8,500 for illegal propaganda.

On Thursday, Netanyahu’s Facebook page’s chatbot was shut down for violating hate speech rules, after sending a message that said Israel’s Arab politicians “want to destroy us all.”

The Facebook bot was later brought back, only to be suspended again on Tuesday after it violated regulations that prohibit the publishing of voter surveys on Election Day.

The day before the election, Netanyahu gave two radio interviews, breaking a law that bars candidates from promoting themselves from 7 p.m. and on starting the night before the election.

The Likud party also allegedly persuaded an Israeli television station to report that surveillance cameras were being installed at “dozens” of polling places in Arab areas, which experts have said was part of an effort to suppress Arab turnout.

However, if that was the intent, it did not work. The turnout from Israel’s Arab population, which composes about 20% of the whole country, was much higher than the last election.

Once the final votes are in, Israel’s president will choose the candidate he thinks will have the best chance of forming a majority government. Usually, that goes to whoever has the most seats, but not always.

See what others are saying: (Vox) (Times of Israel) (Haaretz)

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