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Trump suggests NATO countries to double defence spending

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Donald Trump

Washington, July 12: US President Donald Trump suggested the NATO countries to increase their defence spending to 4 per cent — doubling the 2 per cent target that many members of the bloc were yet to meet.

“During the President’s remarks today (Wednesday) at the NATO summit, he suggested that countries not only meet their commitment of 2 per cent of their GDP on defence spending, but that they increase it to 4 per cent,” CNN quoted White House press secretary Sarah Sanders as saying in a statement.

She said Trump “raised this same issue” at NATO last year.

“President Trump wants to see our allies share more of the burden and at a very minimum meet their already stated obligations,” Sanders added.

But according to NATO data, the US doesn’t even spend as much as Trump is calling on other countries to.

Earlier Wednesday, Trump said the US “in actual numbers”, is spending 4.2 per cent of its GDP on defence.

However, according to numbers released by NATO on Tuesday, the US is expected to spend an estimated 3.5 per cent of the GDP on defence in 2018 which is lower than last year’s number, at 3.57 per cent.

Trump has long complained that NATO members were not meeting their fiscal obligations to the alliance, reports CNN.

“Many countries in NATO, which we are expected to defend, are not only short of their current commitment of 2 per cent (which is low), but are also delinquent for many years in payments that have not been made. Will they reimburse the US?” Trump tweeted on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Trump singled out Germany for particular criticism as he continued to assail NATO allies for failing to spend 2 per cent of their GDP on defence spending, a target NATO allies agreed to meet by 2024.

“Germany is just paying a little bit over 1 per cent… So I think that’s inappropriate also. You know, we’re protecting Germany, we’re protecting France. We’re protecting everybody. And yet we’re paying a lot of money to protect” Trump said during a breakfast with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.

Addressing the media following Trump’s comments, German Chancellor Angela Merkel touted the country’s contributions to NATO and in defence of US interests.

“Germany also does a lot for NATO. We are the second largest donor of troops, we put most of our military abilities into the service of NATO and we are strongly committed in Afghanistan, where we also defend the interests of the US,” Merkel said upon arriving at NATO headquarters Wednesday.

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Indian teenager among 3 killed in US plane collision

Nisha Sejwal, 19, was killed in the accident on Tuesday along with Jorge Sanchez, 22, and Ralph Knight, 72, the Federal Aviation Administration said. 

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Washington, July 18: An Indian teenager has been killed along with two other persons after two small planes collided mid-air in the US state of Florida, authorities have said.

Nisha Sejwal, 19, was killed in the accident on Tuesday along with Jorge Sanchez, 22, and Ralph Knight, 72, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

The police said they were trying to trace the whereabouts of a possible fourth passenger after both planes belonging to the Dean International flight school crashed mid-air, Xinhua news agency reported.

The search and rescue effort that were suspended due to low visibility late on Tuesday, would resume on Wednesday, an officer said.

The police established the identity of Sejwal from her social media page, while Sanchez was found to be a resident from the area.

The debris of the crashed planes was located in a region only accessible by airboats. Photos circulating online showed the wreckage resting on top of a swampy terrain covered by long grass.

Miami Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez told the media that the flight school has a history of more than two dozen incidents and accidents between 2007 and 2017.

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Obama slams Trump-era, warns of ‘strongman politics’

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Barrack Obama

Johannesburg (South Africa), July 18: Barack Obama has used his first high-profile speech since stepping down as US president to take swipes at “strongman politics” and politicians’ disregard for facts.

Obama on Tuesday here mounted a passionate defence of democracy and warned against the politics of the day as his successor, Donald Trump, was heavily criticised for a humiliating news conference on Monday with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, the BBC reported.

In his address in honour of the late Nelson Mandela ahead of the 100th anniversary of his birth, Obama slammed populist movements toward authoritarianism around the world and ridiculed the “utter loss of shame among political leaders” who lie.

Obama, who has made an art of criticising Trump’s values without explicitly naming him, peppered his speech on Tuesday with warnings against some of his successor’s key policies, including protectionism, climate change denial and closed borders.

“The politics of fear and resentment and retrenchment is on the move at a pace that would have seemed unimaginable just a few years ago,” he told the crowd of around 15,000 people in Johannesburg.

“I am not being alarmist, I’m simply stating the facts. Strongman politics are ascendant, suddenly, whereby elections and some pretence of democracy are maintained,… those in powers seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning.”

His remarks followed Trump’s news conference in Helsinki, Finland, in which the US leader sided with Putin over his own country’s intelligence agencies on whether Russia interfered in the 2016 US election, the CNN reported.

Dashing expectations of him confronting Putin over the issue after the US indicted 12 Russians, accused of hacking the Democrat’s emails and computer networks to target Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, Trump sort of toed the Russian line.

“You have to believe in facts. Without facts there’s no basis for cooperation. If I say this is a podium and you say this is an elephant, it’s going to be hard for us to cooperate,” he said.

“I can’t find common ground if somebody says that climate change just isn’t happening, when almost all the world’s scientists tell us it is. I don’t know where to start talking to you about this. If you say it’s an elaborate hoax, where do we start?”

He said politics today often reject the concept of objective truth. “People just make stuff up. We see it in the growth of state sponsored propaganda, internet fabrications, the blurring of lines between news and entertainment, the utter loss of shame among political leaders…,” he said, to laughter in the crowd.

Obama had opened his speech reflecting on the recent chaos of the world that gave him the opportunity to seek perspective.

“But in the strange and uncertain times that we are in — with each day’s news cycles bringing more head-spinning and disturbing headlines — I thought maybe it would be useful to step back for a moment and try to get some perspective,” Obama added.

He warned that the press was under attack, that censorship and state control of media is on the rise and that social media was being used to promote hate, propaganda and conspiracy theories.

“So, on Madiba’s 100 birthday, we now stand at a crossroads,” he said, using a clan name of affection for Mandela.

He said that there was a choice between two visions of humanity’s future that the world must choose between.

“Let me tell you what I believe. I believe in Nelson Mandela’s vision, I believe in a vision shared by (Mahatma) Gandhi and (Martin Luther) King (Jr), and Abraham Lincoln,” he said.

He talked about equality and justice and freedom and multi-racial democracy built on the premise that all people were created equal and were endowed with certain inalienable rights.

Obama’s speech at the 16th annual Nelson Mandela Lecture, is one of his highest-profile appearances and his first return to Africa since he left office in 2017.

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Trump under fire for defending Putin over poll meddling, casts doubt on US intelligence

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Washington, July 17 : United States President Donald Trump has refused to blame Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for meddling in the 2016 elections, casting doubt on the findings of his own intelligence agencies and sparking a storm of criticism at home.

At a joint news conference with Putin following their summit in Finland on Monday, Trump refused to denounce the Russian leader for interfering in the presidential campaign and instead contradicted American intelligence agencies, the US media reported on Tuesday.

Russia had no reason to meddle, Trump said.

His remarks sparked an enormous amount of backlash from his critics, Republicans and Democrats, warning that his actions could ultimately hurt national security interests.

“The President must appreciate that Russia is not our ally,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan. “The US must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy.”

Russia is responsible for “ongoing, pervasive attempts” to undermine US democracy, said Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.

Republican Senator John McCain, a key member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said it was a “disgraceful performance”.

“No prior President has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant,” he said.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted that it was a “missed opportunity… to firmly hold Russia accountable for 2016 meddling”.

“Shameful,” tweeted Republican Senator Jeff Flake. “Bizarre and flat-out wrong,” wrote Senator Ben Sasse in reference to Trump’s separate assertion that both countries were to blame for their deteriorating relationship.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Trump’s actions had “strengthened our adversaries while weakening our defences and those of our allies”.

Former Vice President Joe Biden said: “… Our President had the chance to confront an adversary who has attacked – and continues to attack – our democracy and our allies. He could have stood up for American interests and values. He chose not to.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called Trump’s performance an “embarrassment”.

Former CIA director John Brennan said Trump’s news conference “was nothing short of treasonous”.

“Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???” he tweeted.

Meanwhile, Vice-President Mike Pence defended the summit and praised Trump.

During the press conference, Putin offered to allow US investigators to visit Russia to question the officers regarding poll medding.

In a later interview with Fox News, he said it was “ridiculous” that some people thought Russia could have influenced the US elections.

Putin said the US-Russian relations should not be “held hostage” to an internal political struggle in America.

He also dismissed longstanding reports that Russian intelligence may hold compromising material on Trump.

The Russian leader described the Helsinki meeting as “candid and useful” while Trump said there had been “deeply productive dialogue”.

Trump said US-Russia relations had “never been worse” than before they met, but that had now changed.

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