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Convoy hit by coalition in Syria likely ‘Iranian-directed’: Mattis

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Jim Mattis

Washington (IANS) – A pro-regime convoy that was struck by US-led warplanes inside Syria this week likely was directed by Iran, Pentagon chief Jim Mattis said Friday.

The strike on the convoy heading toward a coalition garrison near the Jordanian border was “necessitated by offensive movement with offensive capability of what we believe were Iranian-directed forces,” Mattis said, adding he was not sure if there were Iranians on the ground.

Thursday’s strike occurred inside an established “deconfliction zone” northwest of the At-Tanf garrison, where British and US commandos have been training and advising local forces fighting the Islamic State group.

Such zones are agreed upon between Russia and the coalition, and are designed to stop either side inadvertently striking the other’s forces on the ground and in the air.

The Pentagon says coalition attempts to stop the convoy from proceeding had included a call to the Russians — who work with the Syrian regime — then a “show of force” in the skies above the vehicles, followed by warning shots.

It appeared the convoy had moved into the area against the advice of the Russians, Mattis said.

“It looks like the Russians tried to dissuade them,” he said.

The Pentagon has stressed the attack did not signal broader US involvement in Syria’s civil war, but Damascus on Friday condemned the strike on pro-government forces as a “brazen attack” and said it would “not be intimidated.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the strike a violation of Syrian sovereignty and said he was “unaware” that Russia had been given any warning ahead of the strike.

An array of regular and irregular forces are battling alongside the government against rebels, including Russian and Iranian soldiers and militants from Iraq and Lebanon’s Hezbollah group.

Thursday’s strike comes in the context of growing tension over which forces will take on IS in Syria’s east.

President Bashar al-Assad’s army is trying to prevent US-backed forces from leading that fight.

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FBI should have informed me of Manafort investigation: Trump

Manafort has been under house arrest since he surrendered to the FBI in November 2017 after being indicted by a federal grand jury as part of the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, tasked with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections.

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Donald Trump

Washington, June 4 (IANS) US President Donald Trump has questioned the fact that the FBI did not inform him about the investigation of his then campaign manager Paul Manafort ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

“As only one of two people left who could become President, why wouldn’t the FBI or Department of ‘Justice’ have told me that they were secretly investigating Paul Manafort (on charges that were 10 years old and had been previously dropped) during my campaign?” Trump said on Sunday on Twitter.

“Should have told me!” The President also said that Manafort joined his campaign “very late” and that he worked with him for “a short period of time,” specifically, between June and August 2016, Efe news reported.

Manafort has been under house arrest since he surrendered to the FBI in November 2017 after being indicted by a federal grand jury as part of the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, tasked with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections.

The indictment charged Manafort with conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts and being an unregistered agent of a foreign principal, among others.

Manafort had to step down as Trump’s campaign manager after it was discovered that he had failed to report receiving a $12.7 million payment for providing counsel to deposed pro-Moscow Ukranian President Viktor Yanukovych (2010-2016).

Manafort’s trial, after he pleaded not guilty to the charges at a court appearance on October 30, 2017, is set for July 24 in the state of Virginia.

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Ex-English teacher finds errors in White House letter

According to the former teacher, the letter she received did not address her concerns.

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New York, May 28 (IANS) A retired English teacher found many errors in a White House letter bearing President Donald Trumps signature and mailed it back after making corrections, a media report said.

The letter, dated May 3 and printed on White House stationery, was addressed to Yvonne Mason, 61, who retired in 2017. After she made the corrections, she snapped a picture, posted the letter on Facebook and mailed it back to the White House.

“It was a poorly worded missive,” she told The New York Times on Sunday.

“Poor writing is not something I abide. If someone is capable of doing better, then they should do better.”

Mason, a Democrat who lives in Atlanta, had written to Trump to ask that he visit each family of those who died in the shooting that killed 17 people at a school in Parkland, Florida, in February.

“I had written to them in anger, to tell you the truth,” she said. “I thought he owed it to these grieving families.”

According to the former teacher, the letter she received did not address her concerns.

Instead, it listed a series of actions taken after the shooting, like listening sessions, meetings with lawmakers and the STOP School Violence Act, a bill that would authorise $500 million over 10 years for safety improvements at schools but had no provisions related to guns.

Some of the things Mason wrote in the letter were: “Have y’all tried grammar & style check?”

“Federal is capitalised only when used as part of a proper noun.”

There was more, but she did not correct everything.

“I did not mention the dangling modifier… I focused mainly on mechanics,” Mason told The New York Times.

“Nation” was capitalised, so was “states”. She circled both the words.

The letter stood in contrast to other letters she has received from politicians, Mason said.

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, sent “beautiful” letters that struck a tone that “makes me more important than him”, she said.

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George H.W. Bush hospitalised with low pressure

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George H.W. Bush

Washington, May 28 (IANS) Former US President George H.W. Bush was hospitalised to be treated for low blood pressure and fatigue, a family spokesman said.

“The former President is awake and alert, and not in any discomfort,” spokesman Jim McGrath tweeted on Sunday, adding that the 93-year-old will likely remain at Southern Maine Health Care in Biddeford, Maine, “for a few days for observation”.

Bush was released from Houston Methodist Hospital this month after being admitted for a virus just a few hours after attending the funeral of his wife, former first lady Barbara Bush, who died on April 17, reports Efe news.

Bush suffers from a type of Parkinson’s that hampers his ability to walk and has been hospitalised several times over the last few years for a variety of health conditions.

Last year, he was admitted in January and April for respiratory complications and had to undergo surgery.

In 2015, he fractured a neck vertebrae and in 2012 he spent Christmas at Houston Methodist Hospital due to bronchitis and a viral infection.

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