World – TIME: U.S. Energy Chief Approves Deal to Sell Nuclear Technology to Saudi Arabia

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Energy Secretary Rick Perry told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Energy Department has approved 37 nuclear applications since January 2017, including nine in the Middle East. Besides the seven to Saudi Arabia, two were approved for Jordan. Perry said in his testimony that six applications were approved to Saudi Arabia, but a spokeswoman later said he misspoke. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., asked Perry whether the applications were approved after Oct. 2, when Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, lived in Virginia.Perry said he did not know the specific date.

“We sign a lot of papers,” he said. “I’ve got a pretty good memory, but to remember every date that I sign a piece of paper might be above my ability to recall.”

Lawmakers from both parties have expressed concerns that Saudi Arabia could develop nuclear weapons if the U.S. technology is transferred without proper safeguards.

Congress is increasingly uneasy with the close relationship between the Trump administration and Saudi Arabia. President Donald Trump has made the kingdom a centerpiece of his foreign policy in the Middle East as he tries to further isolate Iran, a regional rival to the Saudi regime. In the process, Trump has brushed off criticism over the killing of Khashoggi and the Saudis’ role in the war in Yemen.

The nuclear approvals, known as Part 810 authorizations, allow companies to do preliminary work on nuclear power ahead of any deal to build a nuclear plant. They do not allow transfer of nuclear material, equipment or components. The authorizations were first reported by The Daily Beast before Perry confirmed them in public testimony.

Perry disputed media accounts describing the authorizations as secret, saying, “These U.S. companies that are going to be doing this work want to keep that proprietary information from being out in the public domain.”

But Democrats said nuclear authorizations are normally made public. They accused the Trump administration of trying to conceal its negotiations with Saudi Arabia.

“It appears to me that this is an end run around the law in an effort to achieve a policy,” Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

Pompeo said U.S. officials were “working to ensure that the nuclear power that (the Saudis) get is something we understand and doesn’t present that risk” of allowing them to make nuclear weapons.

Sherman called the U.S. response to Khashoggi’s murder inadequate and said officials must do everything in their power to prevent Saudi Arabia from getting a nuclear weapon.

“If you cannot trust a regime with a bone saw, you should not trust them with nuclear weapons,” Sherman said, referring to reports from the Turkish government that Saudi agents used a bone saw to dismember Khashoggi after he was killed last year.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., a member of the Armed Services Committee, told Perry it was “a bad idea to even consider passing on nuclear technology to the Saudi government,” given the possible role of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Khashoggi’s murder.

“The last thing we should be doing is giving the Saudi government the tools to produce nuclear weapons,” said Warren, a Democratic candidate for president.

The announcement of the nuclear approvals came as Republican and Democratic senators requested that the Government Accountability Office review the Trump administration’s negotiations with Saudi Arabia.

Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Bob Menendez, D-N.J., asked the GAO to investigate reports that some negotiations have been conducted without oversight required under the federal Atomic Energy Act. The senators, who both serve on the Foreign Relations Committee, said it was unusual that the Energy Department apparently was leading the negotiations, rather than the State Department.

The senators said they were “troubled by the administration’s lack of consultations with Congress” and concerned that specific proposals presented by Energy officials may not have been fully vetted with other agencies.

The Trump administration had previously opened talks with Riyadh on what’s known as a “123 agreement.” The name comes from the section of the law that establishes the parameters for major nuclear cooperation between the United States and other countries. Without one, U.S. nuclear energy companies such as Westinghouse would lose out on business opportunities with the Saudis.

The Democratic-led House Oversight Committee, meanwhile, has opened an investigation into claims by several whistleblowers who said they witnessed “abnormal acts” in the White House regarding a proposal to build nuclear reactors in Saudi Arabia.

World – TIME


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World – TIME: Mexico Braces for ‘Mother of All Caravans’ as a New Wave of Central American Migrants Prepares to Head North

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(MEXICO CITY) — Mexico is bracing for the possible arrival of the “mother of all caravans,” even as doubts arise over whether the group of Central American migrants will be all that big.

Interior Secretary Olga Sanchez Cordero has said a caravan of migrants from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala could be forming.

“We have information that a new caravan is forming in Honduras, that they’re calling ‘the mother of all caravans,’ and they are thinking it could have more than 20,000 people,” Sanchez Cordero said Wednesday.

But a WhatsApp group calling for people to gather Saturday in El Salvador to set off for Guatemala only has about 206 members.

Activist Irineo Mujica, who has accompanied several caravans in Mexico, said reports about “the mother of all caravans” were false, claiming “this is information that (U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen) Nielsen is using to create fear.”

His group, Pueblo Sin Fronteras, said in a statement there was no evidence the new caravan would be that large, noting “there has never been a caravan of the size that Sanchez Cordero mentioned.” Indeed, past caravans hit very serious logistical hurdles at 7,000-strong.

She and others suspect the administration of President Donald Trump may be trying to fan fears of a big caravan to turn the U.S. national agenda back to the immigration issue.

Honduran activist Bartolo Fuentes, who accompanied a large caravan last year, dismissed the new reports as “part of the U.S. government’s plans, something made up to justify their actions.”

Later Thursday, Honduras’ deputy foreign minister, Nelly Jerez, denied that a “mother of all caravans” was forming in her country.

“There is no indication of such a caravan,” Jerez said. “This type of information promotes that people leave the country.”

A caravan of about 2,500 Central Americans and Cubans is currently making its way through Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas. The largest of last year’s caravans in Mexico contained about 7,000 people at its peak, though some estimates ran as high as 10,000 at some points.

Mexico appears to be both tiring of the caravans and eager not to anger the United States. It has stopped granting migrants humanitarian visas at the border, and towns along the well-traveled route to Mexico City sometimes no longer allow caravans to spend the night.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Thursday that Mexico is doing its part to fight immigrant smuggling.

“We are going to do everything we can to help. We don’t in any way want a confrontation with the U.S. government,” he said. “It is legitimate that they are displeased and they voice these concerns.”

Sanchez Cordero has pledged to form a police line of “containment” around Mexico’s narrow Tehuantepec Isthmus to stop migrants from continuing north to the U.S. border.

The containment belt would consist of federal police and immigration agents, but such highway blockades and checkpoints have not stopped large and determined groups of migrants in the past.

World – TIME


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Top stories – Google News: World first as living HIV patient donates kidney in US – BBC News

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World first as living HIV patient donates kidney in US  BBC News

In a world first, US doctors have transplanted a kidney from one HIV-positive patient to another. The operation took place at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, …

View full coverage on Google News

Top stories – Google News


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Voice of America: Iran Media: 10 People Die from Drinking Tainted Alcohol

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Iran’s state-run news agency says 10 people have died from tainted alcohol in northwestern Azarbaijan province while 240 were hospitalized.

IRNA says the alcohol poisoning took place over the past six weeks in the city of Tabriz.

Hodjat Pourfathi, an official with the Health Ministry, is quoted as saying three of the victims were blinded and several were in a coma. He says the fatalities are likely to rise.

IRNA reported 31 deaths from tainted alcohol last October, most of them…

Voice of America


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FOX News: Dennis Hof’s cause of death revealed

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Nevada brothel owner ​​​​​​​Dennis Hof, a legal pimp who gained notoriety for an HBO series about his business, died of acute myocardial infarction (a heart attack), according to an autopsy report obtained by Fox News.

FOX News


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