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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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Pakistan celebrates Independence Day

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Islamabad, Aug 14 : People all across Pakistan on Tuesday celebrated the country’s 72nd Independence Day.

As the clock struck midnight, fireworks began across the county while buildings were lit up to celebrate Independence Day.

The day-long festivities began with thanksgiving prayers and the hoisting of the national flag at all important public buildings in the country, which had been decorated with bunting and lights ahead of August 14, reports Dawn online.

The day began with a 31-gun salute in the capital, followed by 21-gun salutes in all four provincial capitals.

Pakistan Rangers officials at the Wagah border crossing exchanged sweets with Indian Border Security Force personnel.

The main ceremony will be hosted at the Islamabad’s Convention Centre, where President Mamnoon Hussain is expected to hoist the national flag. Caretaker Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk, the three chiefs of the armed forces and other notable personalities will be in attendance.

Change-of-guard ceremonies were also held at the mausoleums of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Allama Iqbal in Karachi and Lahore, respectively.

People across the country flocked to stalls that lined up streets to purchase national flags in different sizes, t-shirts, badges and other merchandise to display their national pride.

IANS

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Earth’s oldest known evolved rocks result of asteroids

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Sydney, Aug 14: The oldest evolved rocks on Earth are the consequence of asteroids colliding with the planet 4 billion years ago, an Australian research released on Tuesday revealed.

The study by the Curtin University suggests that the rocks, part of the Acasta Gneiss Complex in northwest Canada, are the result of asteroids smashing into the Earth and melting its crust, allowing evolved, or granitic, rocks to form, reports Xinhua news agency.

What led scientists to suggest that they were formed in this way was firstly, the composition of the rocks is different from the those typical of the Earth’s ancient crust.

“The only known evolved rocks from the Hadean eon are those in northwest Canada, which have chemical compositions clearly distinct from those that dominate ancient continental crust worldwide, suggesting they were formed in a different way,” research co-author professor Phil Bland said.

Secondly, the rocks were melted at very low pressures, equivalent to the uppermost few kilometres of crust, meaning the event happened closer to the Earth’s surface.

“The melting of these rocks at such shallow levels is most easily explained by meteorite impacts, which would have supplied the energy to attain the extreme temperatures required for melting,” lead researcher Tim Johnson said.

This period, around 4 billion years ago, was dominated by a barrage of asteroid impacts that would have caused widespread melting and recycling of the Earth’s surface.

“Consequently, there are almost no rocks preserved from Earth’s formative Hadean eon,” Bland said.

Meaning these rocks were rare survivors from a very different time on Earth.

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FBI fires agent for anti-Trump texts

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Washington, Aug 14: Peter Strzok, the FBI agent who said in a text message that he would help prevent US President Donald Trump from ever winning the White House, was fired by the agency, media reports said on Monday.

According to a statement issued by his attorney Aitan Goelman, FBI Deputy Director David L. Bowdich fired Strzok on Friday, although the head of the internal FBI office that generally deals with disciplining employees had decided Strzok only be demoted and suspended from his duties for 60 days.

The firing comes months after private texts surfaced in which Strzok and his girlfriend discussed Trump’s candidacy during the 2016 election campaign, Efe reported.

In those texts, an FBI lawyer with whom Strzok was pursuing a romantic relationship at the time asked him if Trump would ever become president and he responded that he would not because “we’ll stop” him.

Goelman said that the firing “isn’t the normal process in any way more than name,” adding “This decision should be deeply troubling to all Americans”.

Strzok, a 22-year-old veteran of the FBI, helped lead the agency’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and participated in investigating the use of private e-mail servers by Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton.

When the text exchange between Strzok and his then-girlfriend came to light, the FBI removed him from the Russia investigation, now being headed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Trump has frequently used Strzok as a foil to attack the Mueller probe, which is examining alleged links between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

True to form, Trump did not delay in reacting on Twitter to Strzok’s firing, tweeting: “Agent Peter Strzok was just fired from the FBI – finally. Based on the fact that Strzok was in charge of the Witch Hunt, will it be dropped?”

In a subsequent tweet, Trump said that Strzok “was in charge of the Crooked Hillary Clinton sham investigation. It was a total fraud on the American public and should be properly redone!”

In early August, Strzok testified before Congress and asserted that there is “no evidence of bias in my professional actions”.

Although he had been escorted out of the FBI building in June and relieved of all duties at the agency, Strzok had remained on the FBI payroll until his recent firing.

IANS

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