Tag Archives: United States

Ready for prisoner swaps, Iran says US holding 20 Iranians

Iran said on Tuesday that American authorities are holding about 20 Iranian nationals in jail, its official news agency reported, a day after Tehran said it was ready for more prisoner swaps with the U.S.

A prisoner exchange over the weekend saw Iran free a Chinese-American scholar from Princeton who had been held for three years on widely criticized espionage charges. It was seen as a rare diplomatic breakthrough between Tehran and Washington after months of tensions.

“We told the American side that our figure is more or less 20 but this is not final,” IRNA quoted as saying Mohsen Baharvand, an aid to Iran’s foreign minister. The report didn’t provide further details on the claim.

According to Baharvand, U.S. authorities say that Iran is holding one American national and five dual U.S.-Iranian nationals. He said Iranian officials didn’t have “any orders” so far to begin talks on their release, though he suggested this could be the next “phase” in indirect negotiations between Tehran and Washington.

U.S. citizens held in Iran include U.S. Navy veteran Michael White, who is serving a 10-year espionage sentence, as well as environmentalist Morad Tahbaz, an Iranian with U.S. and British citizenship also initially sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Also in Iran are 83-year-old Baquer Namazi and his son, Siamak Namazi, dual Iranian-American nationals facing 10-year sentences after they were convicted of collaborating with a hostile power. Baquer Namazi now is on a prison furlough. However, the Namazis say he remains unable to leave Iran.

Former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorized CIA mission, remains missing as well. Iran says that Levinson is not in the country and that it has no further information about him, but his family holds Tehran responsible for his disappearance.

Baharvand said Iran didn’t undertake direct talks with the U.S. for the weekend’s prisoner swap in Switzerland. The two sides only communicated through Swiss officials, who represent U.S. interests in Iran. Washington and Tehran have had no diplomatic ties since the 1979 Islamic revolution.


Democrats unveil Trump impeachment articles, including abuse of power, obstruction of Congress

House Democrats announced two articles of impeachment Tuesday against President Donald Trump – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress – pushing toward historic votes over charges he corrupted the U.S. election process and endangered national security. 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, flanked by the chairmen of the impeachment inquiry committees, stood at the Capitol in what she called a “solemn act.” Voting is expected in a matter of days in the Judiciary Committee and by Christmas in the full House. Trump insisted he did “NOTHING” wrong.

“He endangers our democracy, he endangers our national security,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., the Judiciary chairman announcing the charges before a portrait of George Washington. “Our next election is at risk… That is why we must act now.”

Trump tweeted ahead of the announcement that impeaching a president with a record like his would be “sheer Political Madness!”

The outcome, though, appears increasingly set as the House prepares for voting, as it has only three times in history against a U.S. president.

In drafting the articles of impeachment, Pelosi is facing a legal and political challenge of balancing the views of her majority while hitting the Constitution’s bar of “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Some liberal lawmakers wanted more expansive charges encompassing the findings from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Centrist Democrats preferred to keep the impeachment articles more focused on Trump’s actions toward Ukraine. House Democrats have announced two articles of impeachment charging President Donald Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The charges unveiled Tuesday stem from Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to announce investigations of his political rivals as he withheld aid to the country.


China to suspend US Navy visits to Hong Kong over bill

China announced Monday that it will suspend U.S. Navy visits to Hong Kong in retaliation over President Trump’s decision to sign legislation that supported the city’s pro-democracy protesters who have taken to the streets since June.

Beijing took its first step to make good on its promise to employ “countermeasures” against the U.S. in light of the bills that it blasted as “hegemonic” in nature and ignorant of the facts on the ground.

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which was sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., requires that the U.S. conducts yearly reviews into Hong Kong’s autonomy from Beijing. If ever found unsatisfactory, the city’s special status for U.S. trading could be tossed.

“I signed these bills out of respect for President Xi, China, and the people of Hong Kong,” Trump said in a statement. “They are being enacted in the hope that Leaders and Representatives of China and Hong Kong will be able to amicably settle their differences leading to long term peace and prosperity for all.”

China also announced on Monday that it sanctioned Human Rights Watch for its support of the violence in the city, ,Hua Chunying, a ministry spokesman, told Reuters.


China suspends R&R visits by US warships over Hong Kong bill

China said Monday it had suspended rest and recuperation visits by American warships in Hong Kong in response to a US bill supporting pro-democracy protesters in the semi-autonomous city.

“In response to the unreasonable behavior of the US side, the Chinese government has decided to suspend reviewing the applications for US warships to go to Hong Kong for recuperation as of today,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular press briefing.

China also said it would impose sanctions on US-based NGOs that have acted “badly” over the recent unrest in Hong Kong.

The sanctions will apply to NGOs including the National Endowment for Democracy, Human Rights Watch and Freedom House, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular press briefing.


Trump speaks with Israel's Netanyahu about Iran, other issues

U.S. President Donald Trump spoke on Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about Iran and other issues, the White House said in a brief statement.

“The leaders discussed the threat from Iran, as well as other critical bilateral and regional issues,” the White House said in an email statement.

Relations between Iran and the United States have worsened since last year when Trump pulled out of Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and reimposed sanctions on the country.


US Green Card: Over 2 lakh Indians waiting for family-sponsored legal permanent residency

More than 2,27,000 Indians are waiting in line for family-sponsored Green Card or legal permanent residency, according to the latest official data.

Currently, there are about four million people waiting in line for family-sponsored Green Cards against a Congressional cap of 226,000 per annum.

The largest number of 1.5 million waitlist is from America’s southern neighbour Mexico, followed by a distant India with 227,000 and China with nearly 180,000.

Majority of those in the family-sponsored Green Card waiting list are siblings of US citizens. Under current law, US citizens can sponsor their family members and blood relatives for Green Cards or permanent legal residency.

President Donald Trump is against such a provision which he calls as chain immigration and wants to abolish this. The opposition Democratic party is vehemently opposed to abolish family-sponsored immigration system.

In addition to four million family-sponsored Green Card applicants, another 827,000, a sizeable number of whom are from India, are waiting in line for permanent legal residency. The waiting line for employment-based green card applicant is painstakingly running into more than a decade for Indian IT professional.

According to DHS, a majority of Indians waiting in line for family-based Green Cards are siblings of US citizens. They number over 181,000. This is followed by 42,000 married children of US citizens and over 2,500 spouses and minor children of permanent residents.


Labour: Dossier indicates NHS ‘up for sale’ in US trade deal

The U.K.’s Labour Party has obtained unredacted documents detailing talks between the U.S. and U.K. that indicate the National Health Service is on the table in trade talks with Washington, party leader Jeremy Corbyn said Wednesday.

This charge comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said during his first debate with Corbyn on November 19 that allegations of secret meetings to put the NHS under review in a U.S. trade deal were an “absolute invention.”

Speaking at a press conference, Corbyn said the 451 pages of documents reveal six rounds of negotiations from July 2017 until just a few months ago. Taken together, this amounts to “evidence” that under Boris Johnson, the NHS “is on the table and will be up for sale,” Corbyn added.

“The election is now a fight for our National Health Service,” declared Corbyn.

The NHS has been a key battleground ahead of the December 12 election, with a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary airing claims that there have been talks between the U.S. and U.K. trade officials on drug pricing. 

Corbyn said the documents expose detail of these discussions, and that they refute the Conservative Party’s denial that U.S. corporations want to force up medicine prices. Those negotiations have advanced even further, said Corbyn, with initial discussions on lengthening patents already completed. 

Reading from the document, Corbyn said it noted: “Everything is included unless something is specifically excluded,” and that the U.S. wants “total market access as the baseline assumption.”

In a tweet just prior to Corbyn’s announcement, Johnson wrote: “Our NHS will not be on the table for any trade negotiations. We’re protecting and strengthening our NHS with more investment and an Australian style, points-based immigration system.”


China tells U.S. and Britain to stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs

China’s ambassador to London on Monday accused foreign countries including the United States and Britain of interfering in Chinese internal affairs through their reactions to the violent clashes taking place in Hong Kong.


Three people reported killed in shooting at Walmart in Duncan, Oklahoma

At least three people have been shot and killed at a Walmart in Duncan, Oklahoma, according to police. The person who opened fire at the store is reportedly among the dead.

Police confirmed three people were killed at the Walmart Supercenter on Highway 81 in Duncan on Monday, local media reported.

The shooting took place outside the store, according to Duncan Police Chief Danny Ford. Local schools have been locked down as a precaution and first responders are on the scene.


Trump considering testifying in House impeachment probe

U.S. President Donald Trump said Monday he is “strongly” considering testifying in the House of Representatives’ ongoing impeachment investigation.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered Trump the opportunity to testify under oath during an interview with CBS’ Face the Nation Sunday morning television program.

Trump, Pelosi said, “could come right before the committee and talk, speak all the truth that he wants if he wants.”

“If he has information that is exculpatory, that means ex, taking away, culpable, blame, then we look forward to seeing it,” Pelosi said. “He has every opportunity to present his case.”

Saying he is weighing her offer, Trump continued to lash out at the impeachment probe and Pelosi, whom he dubs “Nervous Nancy,” calling the House’s investigation a “phony Impeachment Witch Hunt.”

“Even though I did nothing wrong, and don’t like giving credibility to this No Due Process Hoax, I like the idea & will, in order to get Congress focused again, strongly consider it!” Trump wrote in a pair of tweets.

The Democrat-led impeachment process is investigating whether Trump abused the power of his office in seeking to have Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky open corruption probes into Democratic challenger Joe Biden on hitherto uncorroborated claims of corruption, as well as the hold-up of some $400 million in congressionally-appropriated military aid.

Trump has denied wrongdoing as the process has gathered steam and moved into the public arena with nationally-televised hearings of senior diplomats and officials.

Three witnesses, including the U.S.’s ousted top diplomat to Ukraine — Marie Yovanovitch, testified last week.

An ABC News/Ipsos poll released Monday found some 70% of Americans think Trump’s request to a foreign leader to open the probe into Biden and his son, Hunter, was wrong.

Moreover, the poll indicated that a majority of Americans — 51% — now believe the president should be impeached and removed from office. The poll did note that just over 20% of respondents said they had been following the process closely.