Egypt’s ‘fantastic guy’ Sisi to meet Donald Trump

After four years of tension with the United States, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi now has a fan in the White House and on Monday he meets President Donald Trump.The American former reality television star and tycoon has made no secret of his a…

After four years of tension with the United States, Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi now has a fan in the White House and on Monday he meets President Donald Trump.

The American former reality television star and tycoon has made no secret of his admiration for the ex-army chief who overthrew his Islamist predecessor and cracked down on his supporters.

Mohamed Morsi's ouster in 2013, a year after he had won Egypt's first democratic election, and the ensuing crackdown on Islamists prompted then US president Barack Obama to suspend military aid to Cairo temporarily.

But when Sisi meets Trump on Monday during his first state visit to Washington, he will see a counterpart who better appreciates his "mission" to fight Islamists and jihadists, without Obama's hand-wringing over human rights.

"As a matter of fact President-elect Trump has shown deep and great understanding of what is taking place in the region as a whole and what is taking place in Egypt," Sisi, who met Trump in September before his election, said in an interview.

A senior White House official said Friday that Trump wants to "build on the strong connection the two presidents established" then.

Trump has been gushing about Sisi.

"He's a fantastic guy. Took control of Egypt, and he really took control of it," he told Fox Business of the period after Morsi's overthrow which saw hundreds of Islamist protesters killed and thousands detained.

Over the past three years, Sisi has met a trickle of delegations from American think-tanks and other groups, drumming home the importance of supporting him.

"He made a passionate and convincing case for why all nations should stop working with Islamists," said a member of one delegation who requested anonymity.

- Egypt trying to reassert itself -

Sisi often speaks of himself as though he were a Cassandra whose warnings go unheeded.

"We warned two years ago our European friends, the foreign fighters in Syria will return and commit terrorism in Europe," he said during a 2016 visit by French President Francois Hollande.

Cairo is pleased by signals from Trump's administration and Congress that they may consider blacklisting Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood movement, a move which also has its critics in Washington.

"America prepares to confront the Brotherhood," read a banner headline in red in the official Al-Ahram newspaper.

"Beyond Sisi being thrilled that Trump replaced Obama, and the opportunity to turn a page, this is Egypt trying to reassert itself in a more central way to US Middle East strategy," said Issandr El Amrani, the International Crisis Group's North Africa director.

Egypt -- one of two Arab countries to have a peace treaty with Israel -- had traditionally played a central role in US regional alliances, in return receiving $1.3 billion in annual military aid.

Cairo has also mediated between Israel and the Palestinians.

Sisi's office said he will broach the issue with Trump, who has confusingly suggested that he is fine with either a two-state or a one-state solution to the conflict.

Sisi had already made a goodwill gesture on that front in January, retracting a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements after a call from the then president-elect who opposed it.

The resolution was reintroduced after objections by other Security Council members, and passed with the US abstaining.

"Egypt is one of the traditional pillars of stability in the Middle East and has been a reliable US partner for decades," the White House official said on Friday.

Sisi's trip comes ahead of Trump's talks on Wednesday with King Abdullah II of Jordan and after a tentative invitation to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to visit.

US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt has been trying to build momentum for a deal that would be the ultimate achievement for a president who prides himself on his bargaining prowess.

Although Sisi may be delighted about having Trump's ear, he may yet be disappointed.

"The focus (for Trump) is on areas where Egypt has little relevance, like Iraq and Syria," El Amrani said.

Egypt is part of the international coalition against the Islamic State group, but is bogged down fighting the jihadists' franchise in the Sinai Peninsula, where they have killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen.

Western officials who requested anonymity say Egypt is primarily interested in advanced military hardware it believes Western countries are withholding.

Cairo also wants conventional equipment that Washington believes is not useful for a counter-insurgency campaign.

James scores 34 as Cavs stop slide with win over Sixers

LeBron James scored 34 points as the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers brought their miserable March to a close with a 122-105 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.Kyrie Irving scored 24 points and Kevin Love added 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Caval…

LeBron James scored 34 points as the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers brought their miserable March to a close with a 122-105 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.

Kyrie Irving scored 24 points and Kevin Love added 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who still trail the Boston Celtics for first place in the Eastern Conference.

The Cavaliers had lost three straight and five of their prior seven games, posting a 7-10 record in the month of March.

James acknowledged after their loss to the Chicago Bulls on Thursday that the reigning champs were "in a bad spot."

But they encountered little resistance from the 76ers, who had just nine players in uniform thanks to a litany of injuries.

The Cavaliers outscored Philadelphia 38-23 in the second quarter and led 70-52 by halftime.

"We needed this game, we needed to get this win," said Irving. "We all understood that and we've got to keep building from here and not look back. Our process was probably started about 5-6 days ago, a week ago, and now the seed's been planted and now it's just going to grow. So I'm excited about out it."

Irving was whistled for a flagrant foul early in the first quarter. After Philadelphia's Justin Anderson had knocked James to the court, Irving shoved Anderson out of bounds.

Irving was unrepentant afterward.

"I kind of saw Justin kind of lower his shoulder and knock down Bron," Irving said.

His mindset then was "I've got to do something, I've got to protect my brother," Irving said. "A lot of late hits on Bron, a lot of guys trying to get one over on him. It's over for that, it's over for that."

James added nine rebounds and six assists in just 30 minutes on the floor. Neither Love nor Irving played at all in the fourth quarter of a game in which the Cavaliers led by as many as 32.

Despite the Cavaliers' recent difficulties, James said the spirit on the team never flagged.

"On the court, our chemistry took a hit. Our camaraderie didn't," James said. "But at the end of the day we have to fix it and we're here to fix it. This is what we have and we know that, so as we continue to get our guys healthy and we continue to get into the flow of things, we'll figure it out."

Belgium probes own possible involvement in Mosul strike that killed 200+

Belgium has opened a preliminary investigation to determine if its jets were responsible for civilian casualties on at least two occasions in Iraq. One probe seeks to establish whether a Belgian F-16 was involved in the March 17 strike wh…

Preview Belgium has opened a preliminary investigation to determine if its jets were responsible for civilian casualties on at least two occasions in Iraq. One probe seeks to establish whether a Belgian F-16 was involved in the March 17 strike which killed over 200 people.
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Rainbow flag creator Gilbert Baker dead at 65

American artist Gilbert Baker, who created the rainbow flag recognized around the world as a symbol of gay pride, has died, close friend and rights activist Cleve Jones announced.Baker, who was 65, came up with the iconic eight-colored banner for San F…

American artist Gilbert Baker, who created the rainbow flag recognized around the world as a symbol of gay pride, has died, close friend and rights activist Cleve Jones announced.

Baker, who was 65, came up with the iconic eight-colored banner for San Francisco's 1978 gay freedom day, a precursor to the modern pride festival, having taught himself to sew in his 20s.

The former soldier was heavily involved within the San Francisco LGBT rights movement and was a close friend of murdered activist and politician Harvey Milk.

"I am heartbroken. My dearest friend in the world is gone. Gilbert gave the world the Rainbow Flag; he gave me 40 years of love and friendship," Jones posted on Facebook.

"I can't stop crying. I love you forever Gilbert Baker."

He didn't reveal the cause, but the San Francisco Chronicle said the artist had died in his sleep at his home in New York late Thursday.

Jones urged San Francisco friends to gather for an evening vigil under a rainbow flag in the city's Castro district.

The news prompted an outpouring of tributes and expressions of grief on social media.

"Rainbows weep. Our world is far less colourful without you, my love," tweeted filmmaker Dustin Lance Black, who won an Oscar for the screenplay to the 2008 biopic "Milk," starring Sean Penn as the gay politician.

Baker, born in Kansas in 1951, served for two years in the army, according to his website, and was stationed him in San Francisco just as the gay liberation movement was gathering momentum.

"I just talked to Gilbert last month. He gave us his best and the rainbow flag will be an even more treasured keepsake of our history," posted Robert York, a senior director at healthcare lobby group the National Quality Forum.

Suu Kyi’s new govt faces first test at Myanmar polls

Aung San Suu Kyi’s government will face its first test at the ballot box on Saturday in by-elections around Myanmar seen as a barometer for growing disillusionment with her party a year after it took office.The euphoria that surrounded the democracy ic…

Aung San Suu Kyi's government will face its first test at the ballot box on Saturday in by-elections around Myanmar seen as a barometer for growing disillusionment with her party a year after it took office.

The euphoria that surrounded the democracy icon's landslide electoral win in 2015 has ebbed as her party struggles to push through promised reforms.

Discontent is particularly acute in ethnic minority areas where many see Suu Kyi as working too closely with the military that ran the country for 50 years and still controls key levers of government.

With only 19 seats up for election, the poll is unlikely to alter the balance of power in a government firmly dominated by Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy.

But the voting may offer a glimpse into the public's view on the party's first year in power.

Hundreds of voters lined up outside polling stations on the outskirts of Myanmar's commercial capital Yangon early Saturday, though the scene lacked the fanfare and enthusiasm that marked the historic 2015 polls.

Chit Min, a resident in Dagon Seikkan suburb, told AFP many of his friends decided not to vote this time around.

"But I am sure the NLD will win again," he added.

The party will face its toughest challenge to the north in Shan State, where tens of thousands have been displaced by a surge in fighting between the army and ethnic insurgents.

"There are many victims of war here and other ethnic areas now," Sai One Leng Kham, an upper house MP from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, told AFP.

The NLD "needs to understand the real situation. Sometimes they are working without any understanding of what's going on on the ground," he added.

In strife-torn Rakhine State on Myanmar's western coastline, the party will face a strong challenge not only from the local ethnic minority Arakan National Party but also the military-backed USDP.

The USDP led the transitional government that took over from the junta in 2011, but was trounced in elections four years later that swept the NLD to power.

To the south in Mon, the NLD is facing a backlash over the naming of a new bridge after Suu Kyi's father that many see as a symbol of the party's disregard for minorities.

Myanmar's economic and political elite, including the NLD, have long been dominated by the majority Bamar ethnicity.

"Now more people think MPs from ethnic parties should be in parliament," said local Nyan Soe, who was among tens of thousands who protested over the bridge.

"The NLD has not been good for ethnic people since it took power. They don't care much about how ethnic people feel."

Saw Tun, an NLD MP from Mon state, said he is nonetheless confident of victory after receiving strong support on the campaign trail.

Pettersen on top at weather-hit ANA Inspiration

Norway’s Suzann Pettersen topped the leaderboard when darkness halted play in the weather-disrupted second round of the LPGA ANA Inspiration on Friday.Pettersen was among the players unable to finish the first round on Thursday because of high winds th…

Norway's Suzann Pettersen topped the leaderboard when darkness halted play in the weather-disrupted second round of the LPGA ANA Inspiration on Friday.

Pettersen was among the players unable to finish the first round on Thursday because of high winds that halted play.

After wrapping up a first-round 68 at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, she followed with a three-under par 69 for a seven-under total of 137.

"I played really good," Pettersen said. "It really hasn't been that long of a day, but I played quite a bit of golf. Just Steady Eddie, just plugging along, hitting good shots, giving myself chances."

Pettersen is a three-time runner in the first women's major of the year.

"How can you not love this place? It's heaven for golf and great surroundings," she said. "Just really got to be on your A-game to feel like you can attack this course. I'm driving the ball well so I'm giving myself good irons into the greens."

A quartet of players were in the clubhouse one shot behind Pettersen.

That included South Korea's Park In-Bee, whose seven major titles include the 2013 ANA Inspiration.

Park, who fought through a thumb injury to win Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro last year, won her 18th LPGA title at the HSBC Champions in Singapore in March, proving her thumb was healed and she was again read to take on the world after a six month break to let her injury heal.

Park admitted she had been worried about how long it would take to shake off the rust after such a long break.

"But it didn't take that long," she said, although her renowned putting touch wasn't much in evidence on Friday.

"Actually really a nightmare on the greens for me today," she said. "I'm really happy the way I'm hitting the ball but just putting was very disappointing.

"But I had two rounds under par, which is good. and I had a tough day today -- 27 holes and got it done, so happy with that."

American Nelly Korda also carded a second straight 69 to join the group on 138. Australia's Minjee Lee posted a 68 and Cristie Kerr, who shared the first-round lead with France's Karine Icher and Germany's Caroline Mason, carded a 71 for a share of second at six-under.

On the course Icher was six-under for the tournament with six to play, and Michelle Wie was six-under through eight.

World number one and defending champion Lydia Ko of New Zealand carded a second straight 70 for 140 -- good for a share of 11th when play was halted.

She remained neck-and-neck with Ariya Jutanugarn, the Thai talent who has Ko's world number one ranking in her sights and who also carded a 70 for 140.

Art ‘blue helmets’ rescue Italy’s treasures from rubble

Inside the crumbling medieval church of San Francesco di Visso, the “blue helmets” of the art world are racing to save a masterpiece damaged in Italy’s devastating earthquake last year.The crucifixion scene attributed to 15th-century master Paolo da Vi…

Inside the crumbling medieval church of San Francesco di Visso, the "blue helmets" of the art world are racing to save a masterpiece damaged in Italy's devastating earthquake last year.

The crucifixion scene attributed to 15th-century master Paolo da Visso was found in the rubble-strewn church behind a huge wooden wardrobe which miraculously stayed standing in the sacristy.

The pale ochre and violet fresco is now in the hands of Italy's art police, who collect and catalogue fragments, battered crucifixes and cracked candlesticks and hand them to a team of restorers, archaeologists and historians.

A cultural version of the UN's peacekeepers, they have been dubbed the "blue helmets", an elite task force dedicated to protecting and salvaging historic artworks and monuments damaged by the country's deadly tremors.

Italy's Carabinieri Art Squad, an expert force founded in 1969 which combats art and antiquities crimes, and helps train art police in other countries, forms the backbone of the blue helmets.

A deal between Italy and UNESCO will see similar teams sent worldwide to salvage heritage sites devastated by conflict or natural disasters, with their first gig expected to be in the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria once it is safe for them to enter.

But first there are priceless artefacts to save at home.

- From Goths to quakes -

A team of some 40 people made up of art police, firefighters, culture ministry officials, civil protection officers and volunteers painstakingly remove items from the Visso church, which dates back to the Middle Ages.

The main altar was reduced to rubble and each piece must be pulled from the wreckage and numbered before being carefully wrapped and stowed for transport to a secret location. The ministry is taking no risks with treasure looters.

"It was the oldest church in the Marche region (in central Italy), a region with invaluable treasures and no fewer than 483 churches," Pierluigi Morricone from the ministry's crisis unit, who heads up the recovery effort, told AFP.

"We are saving about 600 works of art a day, at least 5,000 in the last two weeks," he said.

The town, which nestles in the Sibylline Mountains near a national park, was founded in 907 AD and survived a sacking by Goths and looting during the Byzantine empire.

Today under a cold spring sun the only people in sight are the blue helmets, carrying a Madonna statue out of the church or wrapping a battered oil painting up in the makeshift open air theatre of operations in the main square.

Visso has become a ghost town, since locals largely abandoned their damaged homes after two series of earthquakes -- a deadly tremor on August 24 that killed 300, and twin quakes that wreaked further damage to buildings on October 26.

"The priority is to save artworks, paintings, frescoes, relics, sculptures, statues, liturgical objects, candlesticks, crosses, thuribles," said Morricone, pointing to each object as it is catalogued and packaged.

- Slice of world's heritage -

Art police chief Paolo Montorsi rushed here with his team after the August quake and have not moved since.

Once Italy had mourned its dead it began counting its cultural losses. Volunteers came from all over the country to help the region.

Antonio is one of them, patiently brushing the dust off an enormous 18th-century painting of the Virgin Mary with baby Jesus.

Slowly the robes in vibrant reds and blues emerge, Mary's gold crown gleams, the angels reappear in the heavens.

"Six percent of the world's art heritage is in this region," says this museum director who wanted to remain anonymous so as not to draw attention from the collective salvage efforts.

"Visso is a city of art, this is a tragedy. We have to save this territory, we cannot give up," he said.

China manufacturing grows modestly in March: Caixin

China’s manufacturing activity expanded slightly in March, independent figures showed Saturday, suggesting steady but slowing growth in the world’s second-largest economy.The figures compare with an official reading Friday hinting that a years-long gro…

China's manufacturing activity expanded slightly in March, independent figures showed Saturday, suggesting steady but slowing growth in the world's second-largest economy.

The figures compare with an official reading Friday hinting that a years-long growth slowdown in China may be easing, though concerns remain about the outlook for world trade in light of US President Donald Trump's protectionist policies.

Investors closely watch the private Caixin Purchasing Manager's Index (PMI) -- an indicator of conditions at small manufacturers -- as a sign of the country's economic health each month.

The figure came in at 51.2 for March, down from 51.7 in February but still among the highest seen over the past four years.

A PMI figure above 50 marks growth while anything below points to contraction.

The Chinese financial magazine said the one-year outlook for growth remained strong and jobs were cut at a marginal pace.

However, it added that more manufacturers showed cautionary attitudes toward inventories and new export sales increased at their weakest pace in three months.

"Overall, the Chinese manufacturing economy continued to improve, but signs of a weakening have started to emerge ahead of the second quarter," Caixin analyst Zhong Zhengsheng said in a joint statement with data compiler IHS Markit.

"Downward pressure may further increase."

On Friday, official figures focusing on larger factories and mines came in at 51.8, slightly beating the 51.7 forecast in a Bloomberg News survey and up from the previous month's 51.6.

Beijing has said it wants to reorient the economy away from debt-fuelled investment towards a consumer-driven model, but the transition has proved bumpy, leading to the slower growth readings in recent years.

A vital engine of global growth, China's economy expanded 6.7 percent for all of last year, the slowest rate in a quarter of a century.

Premier Li Keqiang warned last month the economy faced severe challenges, signalling a further deceleration as he announced a trimmed 2017 GDP growth target of "around 6.5 percent."

There is also uncertainty about the future owing to Trump's promises to revise global trade deals and his past accusations of China being a currency manipulator.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is pencilled in to meet Trump in Florida next week, when trade and economic issues are expected to dominate the agenda.

Google, Amazon eye Toshiba’s chip unit: report

Google and Amazon joined a list of potential buyers eyeing Toshiba’s lucrative memory chip business as the Japanese conglomerate seeks bidders to cover huge losses, a newspaper said Saturday.Toshiba has reportedly completed the first round of bidding f…

Google and Amazon joined a list of potential buyers eyeing Toshiba's lucrative memory chip business as the Japanese conglomerate seeks bidders to cover huge losses, a newspaper said Saturday.

Toshiba has reportedly completed the first round of bidding for its prized memory chip business, seen as key for the cash-strapped company to turn itself around.

Some 10 foreign companies and funds, including Google and Amazon, tendered bids, the mass-circulation Yomiuri Shimbun said, quoting unnamed sources.

The two US tech giants are expected to use Toshiba's memory chips for their cloud services, the daily said.

Taiwan's Hon Hai, which acquired Japanese electronics maker Sharp last year, has apparently bid more than 2 trillion yen ($18 billion), the daily said.

Immediate confirmation of the report was not available.

Toshiba shares jumped more than five percent on Friday after local media reported that bidders included Apple, US private-equity firm Silver Lake Partners and American chipmaker Broadcom.

Toshiba is expected to negotiate with individual candidates this month.

Local media said any foreign buyer would need to pass a Japanese government review, given concerns about security around systems already using Toshiba's memory chips.

Toshiba is the world's number two supplier of memory chips for smartphones and computers, behind South Korea's Samsung, and the business accounted for about a quarter of its 5.67 trillion yen in revenue last fiscal year.

The news report came after angry investors lambasted Toshiba executives at a shareholders meeting over its warning that annual losses could balloon to more than $9.0 billion.

The red ink is largely tied to huge cost overruns and construction delays at its US nuclear power unit Westinghouse Electric, which filed for bankruptcy protection late March.

Stranded in Serbia, migrants endure an odyssey of violence

Driven back by police batons and snarling dogs, or beaten and robbed by the smugglers they relied on, migrants caught in Serbia have regularly been victims of violence as they struggle to reach Europe.About 8,000 migrants have been trapped in the count…

Driven back by police batons and snarling dogs, or beaten and robbed by the smugglers they relied on, migrants caught in Serbia have regularly been victims of violence as they struggle to reach Europe.

About 8,000 migrants have been trapped in the country since the European Union closed its borders, hoping to block the so-called Balkans route taken by hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

But migrants continue to cross the region in smaller numbers -- a few hundred a day -- often with the help of traffickers.

"I could not imagine that European police could be so violent," Najim Khan, a 21-year-old mason from Pakistan, said in a Belgrade park.

The claims from migrants as well as aid groups are dismissed by the authorities: Croatia says there is "no proof" of abuses, Hungary says it acts "with respect to human dignity", and Bulgaria says it has looked into every claim "but they were never confirmed".

Kkan, who arrived from Bulgaria a few weeks ago, says that one evening, the police burst into the squat where he was staying in Sofia.

"They beat us, took us to a police station and then to a closed centre. They beat us again during transfers," he told AFP.

Once in Serbia, he tried to reach the European Union despite the increased patrols at Hungary's border, but his group was quickly spotted by the Hungarian police.

"They made us lie on our stomachs, in a line. They ran on our backs, laughing. They were throwing beers in our faces," Khan said.

"They took our cellphones and broke them. They did not take our money."

In early March, medical aid group Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) denounced the violence against migrants, calling it a "ritual of brutality... designed to stop people from trying to cross again".

- 'Maybe they wanted money' -

"The militarisation of the EU borders has led to a staggering increase in violence, especially along the Balkans," said Andrea Contenta of MSF, which has set up a clinic in Belgrade.

"More than half of our patients have experienced violent events during their journey."

Rados Djurovic, of the Asylum Protection Centre in Serbia, said migrants "complain mostly about violence suffered in Hungary, where they were bitten by dogs, hit brutally, causing broken bones."

Many also complained about abuse in Croatia, but the situation was better in Serbia, where the police have been given clear instructions, according to an aid worker who declined to be named.

Contenta added that although smugglers were responsible for some of the assaults, "the vast majority of our patients reported alleged violence perpetrated by state authorities, mainly by EU member states such as Hungary, Bulgaria and Croatia."

Attal Shafihullah, a 16-year-old Afghan, said he had experienced both.

One night Shafihullah and three comrades were intercepted by the Bulgarian police as they tried to leave Serbia.

"Sometimes they let you go," he said. "Other times not."

This time, the officers beat them, he said.

"Maybe they wanted money," said Shafihullah, whose face bears the scars of burns suffered when his home went up in flames in Afghanistan.

But he is certain that financial motivations were behind the blows of smugglers he met a few weeks later, as they told the migrants to have money sent to them from back home.

"They wanted to make an example, to show that it is a serious business," Shafihullah said.

- Increased risks -

In a Belgrade reception centre, 14-year-old Qayum Mohammadi remembered vomiting after being sprayed with tear gas when the bus carrying him and other migrants crashed into a wall while trying to outrun a Bulgarian patrol.

Some weeks later, in Hungary, officers made him lie on the ground before sending him back to Serbia, added the teenager with a budding moustache.

"They told me to put my hands on the ground, and then walked on them... they hit my thighs with a baton" before sending him back to Serbia, he said.

Rights group say the EU border closures have only made the Balkans route more dangerous, now that such attempts are illegal.

Medecins sans Frontieres has registered more than 70 migrant deaths between Greece and Hungary since last year.

The causes of death include hypothermia, drowning, traffic accidents -- and suicides.

Ivanka Trump, husband Jared benefitting from business empire

President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner have held onto real estate and business investments valued in the hundreds of millions, while working government jobs, according to ethics filings released by the White House.The do…

President Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner have held onto real estate and business investments valued in the hundreds of millions, while working government jobs, according to ethics filings released by the White House.

The documents show that the couple, who are both officially close advisers to the president, are still getting income from holdings valued at between $240 million and $740 million.

The disclosures came in a White House mass document release showing the wealth and financial assets of scores of senior staff members at the time they began government work.

Ivanka Trump -- who just days prior announced she would officially enter a federal role as an unpaid adviser to the US president -- will hang on to her stake in the Trump International Hotel, located blocks from the White House.

According to her husband's disclosure that stake is worth between $5 million and $25 million. Between January 2016 and March 2017 she made between $1 million and $5 million in rent or royalties from the hotel, the documents showed.

Since winning the November election Donald Trump's vast business empire has been scrutinized by ethics experts who say it poses major conflicts of interest.

Critics have voiced fear that interest groups or foreign governments might stay at the luxury Trump hotel in Washington to get in the administration's good graces.

Kushner was recently tapped by his Republican father-in-law to lead a new White House office that aims to use business ideas to help streamline the government, according to the Washington Post.

The 36-year-old is a senior adviser to Trump with far-reaching influence over domestic and foreign policy.

Kushner left high-level positions at more than 200 entities related to his family's real estate business, according to the documents, but will continue to reap benefits from many holdings related to the business empire he ran with his father.

The broad White House document release also included the assets of Gary Cohn -- the former president of Goldman Sachs who heads the White House National Economic Council -- and Steve Bannon, Donald Trump's chief strategist.

The Trump administration is considered one of the wealthiest in US history -- Bloomberg estimates his cabinet and senior staff are worth some $12 billion.

Slow Train Coming: Dylan in Stockholm to accept Nobel

After months of controversy, Bob Dylan is in Stockholm to finally grab his Nobel literature prize in a meeting with the Swedish Academy, which awarded him for his poetry.The first songwriter to receive the prestigious award, Dylan has joined the league…

After months of controversy, Bob Dylan is in Stockholm to finally grab his Nobel literature prize in a meeting with the Swedish Academy, which awarded him for his poetry.

The first songwriter to receive the prestigious award, Dylan has joined the league of Nobel laureates including Thomas Mann, Albert Camus, Samuel Beckett, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Doris Lessing.

At a secret time and place, the famously reclusive Dylan is to receive his Nobel diploma and medal in a closed meeting with the members of the Swedish Academy, which elects the winners of the literature prize.

"The setting will be small and intimate, and no media will be present; only Bob Dylan and members of the Academy will attend, all according to Dylan's wishes," Sara Danius, permanent secretary of the Academy said in a blog post.

He is set to perform concerts on Saturday and Sunday in Stockholm, the first stop on a long-planned European tour.

But the 75-year-old rock enigma will not give his traditional Nobel lecture during the meeting, the only requirement to receive the eight million kronor (836,000 euros, $895,000) that comes with the prize.

"If you want something to go towards a certain direction, then he will go towards the opposite direction. This is what he's done in his entire career," Martin Nystrom, a music critic at the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, told AFP.

"He's very unpredictable."

- New poetic expressions -

The clock is ticking for Dylan who has until June 10 to deliver his lecture, which could be anything from a short speech to a performance, a video broadcast or even a song.

Failing that he risks losing the prize money.

"The Academy has reason to believe that a taped version will be sent at a later point," Danius said, without specifying an exact date.

The songwriter of "Blowin' In The Wind", "Hurricane" and "Mr. Tambourine Man" was honoured "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition," the Nobel committee said when the award was announced last October.

"Not once have I ever had the time to ask myself, 'Are my songs literature?'" Dylan said later in a thank-you speech read aloud by the US ambassador to Sweden during the December Nobel ceremony in Stockholm, which he snubbed due to "pre-existing commitments".

The folk singer has been mentioned in Nobel speculation in past years, but was never seen as a serious contender.

But Dylan cruised past prominent US novelists of his age range such as Don DeLillo and Philip Roth -- to say nothing of late, quintessentially 1960s writers such as Jack Kerouac -- to be the first American to win the award in more than two decades.

- 'I'm right here'-

While Danius, a fervent Dylan fan, has defended her choice and that of her peers, Scottish writer Irvine Welsh, author of "Trainspotting", mocked the prize "awarded by senile hippies".

Dylan kept silent for weeks after he was announced as the winner and when he was asked at the time why he did not respond to the Academy's calls, he told the Daily Telegraph: "Well, I'm right here."

His mysterious reaction even provoked Academy member Per Wastberg to call him "impolite" and "arrogant".

Dylan later apologised for not being able to attend the ceremony and expressed surprise over being chosen as a laureate like authors Ernest Hemingway and Albert Camus.

"If someone had ever told me that I had the slightest chance of winning the Nobel Prize, I would have to think that I'd have about the same odds as standing on the moon," he added.

Dylan's anti-establishment rock star image may seem at odds with the Nobel's prestige, at least in the eyes of hard-core fans, according to Mikael Timm, a culture reporter at the public Swedish Radio.

"Old nerds think this is the case because they want him to be anti-establishment," Timm told AFP.

"It's been a while since he was politically active," he added.

Armed with a harmonica and an acoustic guitar, Dylan confronted social injustice, war and racism, and recording an astonishing 300 songs in his first three years.

Moscow slams NATO’s unconstructive ‘ritual dance’ featuring US State Secretary Tillerson

Preview Moscow says its “baffled” by the remarks of the US Secretary of State during his debut address at NATO HQ, spewing the same old mantra about “Russian aggression” to unite the alliance in the face of a common “threat” that requires additional spending.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview Moscow says its "baffled" by the remarks of the US Secretary of State during his debut address at NATO HQ, spewing the same old mantra about “Russian aggression” to unite the alliance in the face of a common “threat” that requires additional spending.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Japan counts down to cherry blossom fever

Japan’s cherry blossom season kicks off boozy parties across the country and draws tourists from far and wide, but the annual coming-of-spring ritual isn’t official until inspectors like Hisato Nishii sign off on it.Over the past few weeks, local weath…

Japan's cherry blossom season kicks off boozy parties across the country and draws tourists from far and wide, but the annual coming-of-spring ritual isn't official until inspectors like Hisato Nishii sign off on it.

Over the past few weeks, local weather offices have been sending civil servants like Nishii out to so-called barometer trees that signal when sakura -- cherry blossom in Japanese -- have bloomed.

It's no small matter. Millions of Japanese celebrate the explosion of white and pink flowers heralding the change of season, with the Tokyo area expected to hit full bloom this week.

Parks are full, restaurants are packed, and companies get in on the action with sakura-branded merchandise, from pink beer cans to flower-motif candy.

The festivities come at a time when Japan kicks off a new business year, many university graduates start their first full-time jobs, and older colleagues shift into new positions.

The very short season -- full blooms only last about a week before the petals start falling off trees -- has long been cast as a symbol of the fragility of life in Japanese art and literature.

"Sakura have soaked into Japanese people?s minds because they come at a time when many are starting a new chapter in their life," Nishii said, as he inspected a barometer tree in Mito city, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) northeast of Tokyo.

"They capture people's hearts because they bloom only for a short period of time."

- 'We drink because it's spring' -

Blooms in a particular area -- they start as early as March in southern Kyushu and as late as May in northernmost Hokkaido -- are official when a half dozen or more flowers blossom on a barometer tree.

Inspectors initially come once a day, but once the buds start swelling up, the visits increase to twice daily, Nishii said.

The location of a sample tree is a tightly guarded secret to prevent pranks.

"We carefully observe them so as not to miss any open buds and once we confirm it, we officially announce the blossom season's start," he said.

The Japan Meteorological Agency has been monitoring cherry blossoms since 1953, but timing the blooms is still far from an exact science.

A big rainfall can wash out the delicate flowers while a cold weather snap sometimes delays their appearance.

It's a nail-biting experience for some, including many tourists who book travel around the expected times for a full bloom when trees are covered in a blanket of flowers.

Parks in Tokyo have already been filling up as friends, families and colleagues stake out choice spots, laying plastic tarps on the grass as they start hours-long parties under the pretty-in-pink trees.

Yusuke Kinoshita was one of thousands of locals and tourists who gathered in Ueno Park, one of the capital's most popular sakura viewing spots, even before the blooms started.

"I've been drinking since 10 this morning," the 39-year-old hotel worker said one recent weekday afternoon after his shift, noting that his boss would be joining the boozy party later on.

"It's the Japanese way for the most junior colleagues to stake out a spot and get the party going once the boss comes.

"We drink because it?s sakura season," he added. "We drink because it's spring."

Record-setting Kang seizes PGA Houston Open lead

South Korea’s Kang Sung scorched the Tournament Course at the Golf Club of Houston on Friday, firing a nine-under par 63 for a record-setting second-round lead at the Houston Open.The 29-year-old, who entered the week ranked 202nd in the world, opened …

South Korea's Kang Sung scorched the Tournament Course at the Golf Club of Houston on Friday, firing a nine-under par 63 for a record-setting second-round lead at the Houston Open.

The 29-year-old, who entered the week ranked 202nd in the world, opened the second round one shot off the lead held by American Rickie Fowler.

He produced seven birdies and an eagle at the par-five eighth hole, where he rolled in a 30-footer.

Kang's 16-under total of 128 broke the 36-hole tournament record by a stroke.

His six-stroke advantage heading into the weekend is the largest 36-hole lead on PGA TOUR this season, and the largest ever at the Houston Open.

Americans Hudson Swafford and Russell Henley both carded 67s to share second on 134.

Fowler's one-under 71 -- which included six birdies as well as three bogeys and a double-bogey -- left him alone on 135, one stroke in front of Zac Blair and Aaron Baddeley.

"I putted pretty good yesterday, putted really good today," Kang said. "Plus I teed off the first off, and the greens are just pure, nobody really had them. The putter just kept making the putts."

Kang finished equal 18th at last year's US Open in his only major start, but hasn't posted a victory since the 2013 Korean Open.

A victory on Sunday would see him grab a last-gasp berth at the Masters, the first major of the year that tees off next Thursday at Augusta National.

"It's not in my head," Kang said of that tantalizing possibility. "I'll go play. Whatever happens, happens."

Fowler arrived at the 15th tee just four behind Kang. But he dropped three shots in two holes with a double bogey at 15, and a bogey at 16.

A raft of highly ranked players failed to make it to the weekend of the final Masters tuneup.

That included fifth-ranked British Open champion Henrik Stenson, sixth-ranked Jordan Spieth and seventh-ranked Adam Scott.

Brazilians take to streets against Temer-backed reforms

Tens of thousands of Brazilians returned to the streets Friday to protest reforms backed by President Michel Temer’s conservative government.Union members, students, teachers and leftist groups gathered late in the afternoon in central Sao Paulo to dem…

Tens of thousands of Brazilians returned to the streets Friday to protest reforms backed by President Michel Temer's conservative government.

Union members, students, teachers and leftist groups gathered late in the afternoon in central Sao Paulo to demonstrate, as similar protests took place nationwide in cities including Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte.

Unions dubbed Friday's protests a "warm-up" for a general strike set for April 28.

"Today is another national day of demonstrations against the reform of the pension system, labor laws and all the attacks that the Temer government and its allies are committing against the workers of this country," said Marcella Azevedo, who leads the Movement of Women in Struggle group.

An Ibope poll commissioned by Brazil's National Confederation of Industry said Friday that just 31 percent consider Temer's government is doing an acceptable job, while 55 percent call the performance bad or terrible.

Just 10 percent said it was good or excellent.

Temer took over last year after the impeachment of leftist president Dilma Rousseff, who was found guilty of illegal government accounting tricks.

He has promised to restore the economy to health after two years of recession, but his center-right government is no more popular than Rousseff's.

Despite government predictions of economic recovery within months, Brazil's jobless rate shot to 13.2 percent over the last quarter, the state statistics office said Friday.

Temer got Congress to pass a 20-year spending freeze and is now asking for pension reform and other painful measures.

Those moves have fueled a strong resistance, even among those in Temer's allied base.

Australia floods still rising with two dead, four missing

Flooded rivers were still rising Saturday in two Australian states with two women dead and four people missing after torrential rains in the wake of a powerful tropical cyclone.Queensland police warned that the Logan River, which runs through Beenleigh…

Flooded rivers were still rising Saturday in two Australian states with two women dead and four people missing after torrential rains in the wake of a powerful tropical cyclone.

Queensland police warned that the Logan River, which runs through Beenleigh south of Brisbane, would not hit peak flood levels for several more hours while the city of Rockhampton to the north was also facing a major threat.

Commissioner Ian Stewart warned there was "still a major risk to the community around Logan and further south caused by that flooding situation."

Rockhampton, with a population of over 80,000 on the Fitzroy River, was expected to suffer flood levels not seen for a century by Wednesday and Stewart urged residents in low-lying areas to leave.

"By Wednesday, we will be at peak flooding in Rockhampton," he said.

"It won't just be on Wednesday, it will be a gradual rise, so I encourage people to move now."

Queensland police tweeted "we currently have four people missing... that we have serious concerns about," but provided no further detail.

Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from a string of towns in Queensland and New South Wales as the floods move south towards Ballina.

Category four Cyclone Debbie hit northeastern Australia on Tuesday between Bowen and Airlie Beach ripping up trees and causing widespread damage that is still being assessed.

It was downgraded to a tropical low as it tracked southeast. But the storm still packed damaging winds and dumped huge amounts of rain all the way down the east coast to Sydney and beyond before blowing out over the Tasman Sea.

Police on Friday found the body of a woman who disappeared in floodwaters near Murwillumbah just south of the Queensland border.

And a 64-year-old woman, whose vehicle was swept off a causeway on a property in Gungal, in the Hunter Valley south of Sydney was also found dead Friday.

Lismore, south of Murwillumbah was among the worst flooded towns on Friday with Tweed Heads, Kingscliff and Murwillumbah also subject to evacuation orders.

Just to the north the popular Queensland tourist city of Gold Coast and surrounds were also inundated.

In areas further north where the cyclone made landfall, water and power were still being restored.

Bowen, Mackay and the Whitsunday islands, where power went down for more than 50,000 people, bore the brunt of the cyclone.

The military has mobilised 1,300 soldiers for the clean-up, with helicopters and planes deploying to restore infrastructure and supply emergency food, water and fuel.

The Insurance Council of Australia declared the Queensland and northern NSW regions disaster zones, adding that the damage bill could top Aus$1 billion (US $770 million).

The council's chief Rob Whelan compared Debbie it to Cyclone Oswald, a category five storm which hit in 2013 and caused over Aus$1 billion in damage.

Tiger’s historic ’97 Masters win still resonates

Before Tiger Woods became a legend with 14 major titles or saw his golf career dimmed by injury, he was a 21-year-old who made history with an amazing Masters triumph.And 20 years later, that epic 1997 victory at Augusta National remains a turning poin…

Before Tiger Woods became a legend with 14 major titles or saw his golf career dimmed by injury, he was a 21-year-old who made history with an amazing Masters triumph.

And 20 years later, that epic 1997 victory at Augusta National remains a turning point for the sport, the man and even the course.

A crestfallen Woods confirmed Friday that he had lost his battle to be fit for Augusta, two decades after a victory whose effects are still felt today.

Golf popularity and prize money have reached new heights thanks to the extra attention and fans Woods brought to the sport with his shot-making skills and charisma.

"There's no doubt that we feel what Tiger Woods has done for the game of golf every week we tee it up, how he has transcended the sport, brought so many more people to the fan base," Northern Ireland star Graeme McDowell said. "The biggest athletes in the world, Tiger and (NBA legend) Michael Jordan, are maybe bigger than their sport."

Woods became the first black golfer to win a major, the youngest to capture the Masters at age 21 and he shattered records to win by 12 strokes with an 18-under par 270 total for 72 holes.

His triumph touched off "Tigermania" as his popularity and the sport's profile soared. He became an epic pitchman, endorsement income helping him crack $1 billion by some estimates, and moved him four major wins shy of the record 18 won by Jack Nicklaus.

An infamous sex cheating scandal revealed in 2009 led to divorce while knee and back injuries dimmed his once-mighty drives, leaving his future career in doubt at 41.

But his legacy lives on. Augusta National was lengthened and a "second cut" added in the wake of Woods, technology advances and players becoming fitter to answer the challenge Woods threw at them to reach peak physical levels.

Beyond that, the youth that watched on television as Woods electrified the golf world in 1997 at Augusta were inspired to become champions themselves, his legacy in their success as well.

- 'Tiger really got me into golf' -

"I was nine years old and getting into golf," Australian star Jason Day recalled. "My dad had this turn-knob TV with bunny ears and you had to move the antenna to get the right picture and it was like really early in the morning.

"I remember him walking up the 18th and he had obliterated the field... Tiger really got me into golf, that moment when he won the '97 Masters and I started playing more."

Rickie Fowler recalled the fightback nature for Woods in 1997 after he played the front nine of the first round in 40, before four birdies and an eagle let him play the back nine in 30 to stand fourth on 70 after round one.

"Well, he started off terrible. It wasn't a good front nine," Fowler said. "It was something I remember, it was record setting, him going out and getting his first green jacket.

"It was impressive what he was able to do the next 63 holes after going out the way he did. Something to take from that. Something you have to learn a little bit is you just never give up.

"That's probably one of my most memorable tournaments, just because I was eight, so it was right in my prime. I watched it multiple times and it definitely did not look like he had a chance to win, if you looked at him after nine holes."

- Won by 'ridiculous amount' -

Not everyone, however, was paying attention.

"That's the one where he won by a ridiculous amount of golf shots? I was only 10. I wasn't into golf at that time," said reigning Masters champion Danny Willett of England.

World number one Dustin Johnson, who grew up only an hour's drive from Augusta, was 12 when Woods won in 1997.

"I have no idea where I was. Probably at home," Johnson said. "I remember watching it. Could I tell you the shots he was hitting? No. But I do remember watching him win. It was a long time ago, 20 years ago. Wow."

The Black Cooperative Investment Fund to Host Official Launch and Fundraiser Event

The Black Cooperative Investment Fund (BCIF) will host its official launch and fundraiser event Saturday, April 15th at 7 p.m. The event will be held at The Beat Box L.A. located at 11828 Teale Street, Los Angeles 90230.

The Black Cooperative Investment Fund (BCIF) will host its official launch and fundraiser event Saturday, April 15th at 7 p.m. The event will be held at The Beat Box L.A. located at 11828 Teale Street, Los Angeles 90230.

Wash Ninja® ‘Green-Friendly’ Mobile RV Detailing is Now Available in Jacksonville, Florida

Wash Ninja, Inc., Masters in Mobile Green Car Shine, shortly one year after opening is offering professional ‘Green-Friendly’ mobile recreational vehicle (RV) detailing & protection services throughout Jacksonville, FL along with continued…

Wash Ninja, Inc., Masters in Mobile Green Car Shine, shortly one year after opening is offering professional 'Green-Friendly' mobile recreational vehicle (RV) detailing & protection services throughout Jacksonville, FL along with continued...

Justus Rosenberg: college professor and saviour of Jews

If it weren’t for his blond hair and blue eyes, Justus Rosenberg may have never lived to tell the tale of his little-known role in helping hundreds of artists and other intellectuals escape Nazi-occupied France.The journey of this man — who still teac…

If it weren't for his blond hair and blue eyes, Justus Rosenberg may have never lived to tell the tale of his little-known role in helping hundreds of artists and other intellectuals escape Nazi-occupied France.

The journey of this man -- who still teaches at Bard College in upstate New York at age 96 after a decades-long professorial career -- is a fascinating one that landed him France's highest honor this week.

Rosenberg is believed to be the last surviving member of an anti-fascist smuggling network set up by Varian Fry, a journalist dubbed America's Schindler.

Fry headed to the southern French city of Marseille in 1940 with just $3,000 and a list of about 200 people to try to save. In the end, he shepherded to safety about 2,000 people via the American-sponsored Emergency Rescue Committee, including artists Marc Chagall, Andre Breton and Max Ernst.

Rosenberg, who was just 19 at the time but looked younger and sported stereotypically "Aryan" features despite his Polish Jewish background, was the perfect courier for Fry's network.

He delivered messages to refugees and searched for possible routes for safe passage, including through Spain. Rosenberg later served with the French Resistance and the US Army.

Through his wartime actions and his continued fight against hate today, Rosenberg is a "living reminder of where history can take us if we lose our vigilance as informed and engaged citizens," French Ambassador Gerard Araud said Thursday in handing him the Legion of Honor in New York.

- 'Very selective' -

But this short, grey-bearded man doesn't portray himself as a hero.

"It really was more of an adventure at the time. It was very romantic," Rosenberg told AFP in a recent interview, his eyes shining brightly as he spoke in French.

"Afterwards, yes, I realized. But I did always wonder, why were we only helping the intellectuals, why not ordinary people too? Don't they also have the right to live? It was very selective."

He arrived in France after leaving his hometown, the Free City of Danzig, now known as Gdansk, in Poland. A top student, he was excluded from his school by anti-Jewish laws, so his parents sent him to Paris in 1937 to complete his studies.

After passing his high school exam, Rosenberg attended Paris-Sorbonne University, "falling in love" with the French language after seeing a performance of Jean Racine's play "Phedre."

When World War II broke out, he was suddenly cut off from his family, and penniless.

He picked up various odd jobs, including a role in a play adaptation of Jules Verne's "Around the World in 80 Days." Rosenberg had just one line: "Liverpool bound!"

- Escaping death, many times -

Fry was expelled in 1941 by the collaborationist Vichy regime. Receiving a hostile welcome upon his return to New York, his role in the refugee network long remained in the shadows and he died largely unknown in 1967.

With Fry out of France, Rosenberg joined the French Resistance in Grenoble. But the Vichy regime toughened its anti-Jewish laws. In August 1942, Rosenberg was arrested and interned at the Venissieux camp, which sent some of the first convoys to the Auschwitz concentration camp.

But Rosenberg faked a peritonitis just two days before his transport was due to leave, and managed to escape with help from a camp nurse.

He found refuge in a farmer's house in the southeastern town of Montmeyran, where he relaunched his clandestine activities with the assumed name of Jean-Paul Guiton.

"I've never forgotten those two women, who risked their own freedom by helping me," Rosenberg said.

And that's just one of the many narrow escapes that helped keep the young Jewish man alive during the Holocaust.

In 1944, he met some of the first American soldiers to arrive in France after the Normandy landings. They took him on as a guide and translator.

The men played a joke on Rosenberg one day, taking off in their Jeep without him.

Rosenberg jumped in the back. The vehicle then rolled over a land mine, killing the man in the passenger seat. Rosenberg escaped with minor injuries.

- Age is but a number -

Upon his arrival in the United States, in 1946, Rosenberg returned to his love of literature and languages -- he is fluent in English, French, German, Russian, Polish and Yiddish.

After several teaching stints elsewhere, he joined Bard College in New York state's Hudson Valley in 1962. Today, he still deciphers texts by the likes of Franz Kafka and Guy de Maupassant, mixing literary analysis with history.

In 2011, he founded with his wife the Justus and Karin Rosenberg Foundation, whose stated mission is to fight hatred and anti-Semitism.

A hearing aid and a walking cane are the only indications of his advanced age.

Rosenberg's secrets to longevity are numerous -- "luck," his fluency in French that saved him during the Occupation, family "genes" that he says also helped his parents and his sister escape the Holocaust and migrate to Israel.

He also cited his "late marriage," because "after the war, I had to catch up," Rosenberg whispered with a smile.

Rosenberg says he sees no parallel between the 1930s and the current, toxic political climate in the United States.

"But I wouldn't mind coming back here in 30 years to see how the world has evolved," he said, with a laugh.

Protests brew as Venezuela leader denies coup

Venezuela faces calls for street protests Saturday at the tensest moment yet in a political and economic crisis that has brought it close to collapse.President Nicolas Maduro’s opponents called on Venezuelans to take to the streets and urged the army t…

Venezuela faces calls for street protests Saturday at the tensest moment yet in a political and economic crisis that has brought it close to collapse.

President Nicolas Maduro's opponents called on Venezuelans to take to the streets and urged the army to abandon him, branding moves to consolidate his power a "coup d'etat."

Maduro has clung to power in a more than year-long standoff with his center-right opponents, but on Friday a sign emerged of possible division in his camp when the attorney general broke ranks with him.

Yet uncertainty reined in the volatile nation hit by food shortages and violent crime, which has seen three attempted military coups since 1992.

- Maduro defiant -

Maduro faced the strongest criticism ever from within his own camp Friday as his attorney general condemned recent court rulings that strengthened the socialist president's grip on the levers of power.

Attorney General Luisa Ortega denounced on live state television what she called a "rupture of constitutional order."

She was referring to two Supreme Court rulings this week that effectively dissolved the opposition-majority legislature and revoked lawmakers' immunity from prosecution.

Maduro's opponents and political analysts alleged a coup and international powers condemned the moves.

The government rejected that accusation.

Maduro said in a speech to cheering supporters late Friday: "In Venezuela, the constitution, civil, political and human rights and people power are in full force."

He vowed "through dialogue and the constitution, to resolve the impasse" between the attorney general and the court.

He also said he had called a meeting of security chiefs to "deliberate and draw up a resolution."

- Scuffles, arrests -

The legislative speaker, Julio Borges, called on the military and other institutions to follow Ortega's example and speak up against Maduro.

"Now is the time to obey the orders of your conscience," he said.

Street protests erupted for a second day Friday in Caracas. Students marched on the Supreme Court, where they scuffled with soldiers.

Protesters also blocked streets in the working-class Petare neighborhood, and opposition lawmakers clashed with Maduro supporters downtown.

Two students and a journalist were arrested, activists said.

- International concern -

International condemnation has poured in from the United States, the European Union, Spain, Germany and a host of Latin American countries.

The head of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, has called for the regional group's permanent council to hold crisis talks on the situation.

South American regional bloc Mercosur -- which suspended Venezuela in December -- will also hold crisis talks Saturday, Argentina announced.

- Power struggle -

The opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) won a landslide in legislative elections in December 2015.

But the court has overturned every law passed by the current legislature.

Venezuela has the world's biggest oil reserves, but the collapse in prices has sapped its revenues, prompting shortages of food, medicine and basic goods.

Maduro is not up for re-election until October 2018. But he has been forced to fend off opposition efforts to call a vote on removing him from power.

- Protests called -

Outside a supermarket in Caracas, Venezuelans were agitated at the news as they queued to buy food rations.

"If it's not a coup then it looks very like one," said mechanic Eduardo Rodriguez, a 58-year-old mechanic. "It looks very ugly to me."

Opposition groups called for more street protests Saturday.

"We have to come out and defend democracy," said Sara Ramirez, 68, a building porter, waiting in line.

But others were sick of the political conflict.

"I don't support either side," said Yandry Diaz, 18, who works in a shoe shop.

"What they want is to have us in the street, fighting and killing each other so that they can hold power."

Terry Sacka Discusses The Use Gold & Silver As Legal Tender in Utah

Dr. Charles Vance interviewed Terry Sacka, Chief Strategist of Cornerstone Asset Metals, to discuss recent legislature in the state of Utah regarding gold and silver to be used as currency.

Dr. Charles Vance interviewed Terry Sacka, Chief Strategist of Cornerstone Asset Metals, to discuss recent legislature in the state of Utah regarding gold and silver to be used as currency.

Lawmaker: White House wrong to withhold intelligence documents

The top Democrat on a US congressional committee investigating alleged ties between Russia and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign faulted the White House for withholding until Friday information it said it had shared last week with his Republican cou…

The top Democrat on a US congressional committee investigating alleged ties between Russia and Donald Trump's presidential campaign faulted the White House for withholding until Friday information it said it had shared last week with his Republican counterpart.

"Today my staff director and I reviewed materials at the White House," said Congressman Adam Schiff in a brief statement after receiving documents at the White House late Friday.

"It was represented to me that these are precisely the same materials that were provided to the chairman over a week ago," said Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

A senior White House official said late Friday that Schiff met with Trump at the White House, but the lawmaker made no reference to meeting the president in his remarks, instead reserving his remarks to his review of the documents.

"While I cannot discuss the content of the documents, if the White House had any concern over these materials, they should have been shared with the full committees in the first place as a part of our ordinary oversight responsibilities," the Democratic lawmaker said.

"Nothing I could see today warranted a departure from the normal review procedures, and these materials should now be provided to the full membership of both committees," he continued.

According to unconfirmed media reports, the White House shared some information it has in the case with Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, but not with his counterpart Schiff or other members of the panel.

"The White House has yet to explain why senior White House staff apparently shared these materials with but one member of either committee, only for their contents to be briefed back to the White House," Schiff said, after finally being allowed to view the materials more than a week after they were apparently shown to Nunes.

The documents pertain to investigations underway in Congress and by the FBI into allegations that Moscow tried to swing November's presidential election in Trump's favor, and whether some in the Republican's inner circle colluded with Russia.

The FBI, in an extraordinary admission, confirmed publicly last week it was probing the possibility of such collusion.

Signature Inc. Discusses Jay Fund

The Signature, Inc. team works hard to fulfill a company-wide commitment to philanthropy. The firm’s President elaborated on the group’s most recent fundraising efforts to benefit Tom Coughlin’s Jay Fund Foundation.

The Signature, Inc. team works hard to fulfill a company-wide commitment to philanthropy. The firm's President elaborated on the group's most recent fundraising efforts to benefit Tom Coughlin's Jay Fund Foundation.

Factors that Elevate Signature to #1

The Factors That Elevate Us to Number One Status We always reach high, and it certainly pays off. We’re proud to report that Signature, Inc. is now the number one office in the market for the fiber-optic company we serve.

The Factors That Elevate Us to Number One Status We always reach high, and it certainly pays off. We're proud to report that Signature, Inc. is now the number one office in the market for the fiber-optic company we serve.

Tiger Woods won’t play the Masters

Tiger Woods announced he had lost his battle to be fit for the Masters, saying he was “not tournament ready” for the first major of the year and did not have a timetable for his return.Woods, whose 14 major titles include four Masters green jackets, ha…

Tiger Woods announced he had lost his battle to be fit for the Masters, saying he was "not tournament ready" for the first major of the year and did not have a timetable for his return.

Woods, whose 14 major titles include four Masters green jackets, has not played since withdrawing from the Dubai Desert Classic on February 3 with ongoing back spasms.

He made his comeback in December after missing all of the 2015-16 season following back surgery.

"Unfortunately, I won't be competing in this year's Masters," Woods said on his website. "I did about everything I could to play, but my back rehabilitation didn't allow me the time to get tournament ready.

"I'm especially upset because it's a special anniversary for me that's filled with a lot of great memories. I can't believe it's been 20 years since I won my first green jacket."

Woods' historic 1997 victory at Augusta National, when he was 21 years old, was a watershed for golf. He became the first black golfer to win a major, the youngest to capture the Masters and he shattered records in winning by 12 strokes with an 18-under par total.

The out-sized triumph fueled "Tigermania" and even as his health woes have piled up and his on-course performances diminished he remains a massive drawing card.

"I have no timetable for my return, but I will continue my diligent effort to recover, and want to get back out there as soon as possible," said Woods, who added that he would be in Augusta, Georgia, to attend the annual pre-tournament Champions Dinner.

"Augusta National has been a very important place to me and my family for over 20 years, and while I'm disappointed, it will be good to be back there Tuesday," said Woods, whose last major title came at the 2008 US Open.

Sun ‘n Fun 2017: MYGOFLIGHT To Debut New FAA Certified iPad/Tablet Mounts

MYGOFLIGHT, maker of premium iPad and tablet gear for pilots, announced a new UltraThin iPad Panel Mount that is FAA Certified, new tilt and swivel mounts, and new helicopter mounts.

MYGOFLIGHT, maker of premium iPad and tablet gear for pilots, announced a new UltraThin iPad Panel Mount that is FAA Certified, new tilt and swivel mounts, and new helicopter mounts.

Sun ‘n Fun 2017: MYGOFLIGHT to demonstrate SKYDISPLAY™, A Head-Up Display System

SKYDISPLAY™ HUD products use the untouched canvas of the sky to deliver information to pilots in their line of sight when they need it, with zero increase to pilot workload.

SKYDISPLAY™ HUD products use the untouched canvas of the sky to deliver information to pilots in their line of sight when they need it, with zero increase to pilot workload.

New Services for a Charlotte Painting Contractor

Residential Painting.Contractors has added new services to their line of business to offer customers more than just house painters, such as popcorn ceiling removal, wallpaper installation, orange peel applications, wallpaper removal and so on.

Residential Painting.Contractors has added new services to their line of business to offer customers more than just house painters, such as popcorn ceiling removal, wallpaper installation, orange peel applications, wallpaper removal and so on.

Protesters set fire to Paraguay Congress building (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Preview Violent protesters in the Paraguayan capital of Asuncion have stormed the National Congress building following a day of angry rallies over the senators’ closed-doors vote to allow President Horacio Cartes to run for re-election.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview Violent protesters in the Paraguayan capital of Asuncion have stormed the National Congress building following a day of angry rallies over the senators’ closed-doors vote to allow President Horacio Cartes to run for re-election.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Medvedeva boost for tainted Russia

Evgenia Medvedeva was in class of her own as the golden girl of women’s figure skating sealed back-to-back world titles and looks to restore Russia’s tarnished image at the 2018 Winter Olympics.The 17-year-old from Moscow had watched on television as A…

Evgenia Medvedeva was in class of her own as the golden girl of women's figure skating sealed back-to-back world titles and looks to restore Russia's tarnished image at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The 17-year-old from Moscow had watched on television as Adelina Sotnikova surged past South Korean superstar Kim Yu-Na to claim a controversial gold in Sochi.

It capped a glorious Winter Games for the 2014 hosts during which Medvedeva's childhood idol Yevgeny Plushenko powered Russia to the team figure skating gold.

Russia has since been plunged into a damaging scandal amid claims of systematic state-sponsored doping between 2012 and 2014 resulting in their athletes being banned from the Rio Olympics.

And Russia still face a race against time to be declared compliant with world anti-doping regulations in time for the 2018 Games.

"Obviously I watched the Olympic Games in Sochi and the most memorable moment for me was the victory ceremony in the team event," recalled Medvedeva after her record-setting gold medal winning performance in Helsinki on Friday night.

"The skaters were standing on top of the podium with the gold medals around their necks and the whole country was celebrating and proud because our country was the strongest.

"It makes me sad to read and hear the news now. But we have to support each other. I know from my experience what a great role support plays and we should not give up."

Medvedeva is now the overwhelming favourite for gold in Pyeongchang as South Korea's Kim was when as the reigning world champion she lit up the Vancouver Games.

The Russian led all the way in Helsinki's Hartwall Arena to crush her rivals finishing more than 15 points ahead of Kaetlyn Osmond, 21, one of two Canadians on the podium for the first time with 19-year-old Gabrielle Daleman a distant third.

Medvedeva glided across the ice delivering a powerful and emotional skate to music from the film "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close", which depicts events surrounding the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The two-time European Champion reeled off 11 jumps including seven triples plus two double Axels linked by intricate and balletic steps to continue her unbeaten run to 10 consecutive competitions.

Her performance also gave her a new best mark of 154.40 in the free skate for a record overall total of 233.41 -- bettering her own previous bests in both by over three points.

- 'Reap benefits' -

The two-time European champion becomes the first woman since American Michelle Kwan in 2001 to successfully defend her world titles.

But Kwan never went on to lift the Olympic gold despite her five world golds.

"I try not to think too far ahead because you never know what will happen in the future," Medvedeva said.

"I hope that all the work that my coach and I put in every day will reap positive benefits."

Russia, the United States and Canada all clinched a maximum three spots in the women's competition in Pyeongchang, with Japan going to South Korea with two after losing one.

No Olympic ultimatum from LA 2024 chiefs

The head of Los Angeles’s bid for the 2024 Olympics ruled out issuing an ultimatum to the International Olympic Committee on Friday, taking a veiled swipe at rival city Paris as the battle for the Games heats up.LA 2024 chairman Casey Wasserman told AF…

The head of Los Angeles's bid for the 2024 Olympics ruled out issuing an ultimatum to the International Olympic Committee on Friday, taking a veiled swipe at rival city Paris as the battle for the Games heats up.

LA 2024 chairman Casey Wasserman told AFP in an interview that IOC moves to explore the possibility of awarding both the 2024 and 2028 Summer Games at the same time at a vote in September were "absolutely right."

But while Wasserman argued forcefully that Los Angeles was the best candidate for 2024, he stopped short of issuing an ultimatum.

Paris co-chairman Tony Estanguet had warned last week that it was "now or never" for the French capital, and that if the city's tilt at 2024 was not successful "we will not come back for 2028."

"Now or never sounds like an ultimatum to me," Wasserman told AFP at his Los Angeles office.

"I have been in business a long time. I never had a successful relationship or partnership with any entity by issuing an ultimatum.

"We will not issue an ultimatum."

Wasserman was speaking amid intense speculation concerning the race for 2024, which will be decided at an IOC vote in Lima on September 13.

The IOC is looking at the option of awarding two Olympics at once in order to capitalise on the Paris and Los Angeles bids at a time when fewer and fewer cities are willing to take on the financial and logistical responsibilities of staging an Olympic Games.

"It's exactly the kind of idea and strategic initiative the IOC should be thinking about," Wasserman said.

"But if you take a step back, if you look at the strategic rationale, it points to the importance and the necessity of LA going first."

- 'Calm and stability' -

LA's bid, which would require no major infrastructure projects or venue construction, making use of existing facilities, offered the prospect of "calm and stability" for the Olympic movement, Wasserman said.

"No political interference, tremendous support from our citizens, no capital projects, no budget overruns. That's LA. And that calms and creates stability," Wasserman said.

Pressed on whether there was any scenario in which Los Angeles officials may consider staging the games in 2028, Wasserman said the city remained focused only on 2024.

"No-one's a candidate for 2028. I think that's a hypothetical and it's not worth discussing. The IOC's got a process. We've had no conversations with the IOC about that process. We don't know what their intent is," he said.

"We don't know what their approach is going to be, so for anyone to comment on 2028 is premature."

There had also been no discussions with the IOC about the possibility of a joint 2024/2028 award.

"They've not reached out to us. Other than the public statements they've made, we've had nothing," he said.

With the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics mired in corruption allegations, and questions raised about white elephant venues which have been left to rot, the stakes for the IOC could not be higher as it ponders its choice for 2024.

Wasserman said the Olympic movement was at a "turning point".

"The next host of the Olympics had better get it right. I don't think the Olympic movement wants to be put in a poistion of having seven more years of the kind of challenges they have had in the past," Wasserman said. "The Olympics deserves better, the movement deserves better."