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Wednesday, 24 August 2016 00:00 Published in Headlines
Washington — Donald Trump on Monday demanded that Hillary Clinton shut down the charitable foundation founded by her husband, former US president Bill Clinton, branding it a “corrupt enterprise.”
The Republican presidential candidate also called for a special prosecutor to investigate his Democratic rival, accusing the FBI and Justice Department of a “whitewash” during their probe of her use of a private email server while secretary of state.
“The amounts in-volved, the favors done and the significant number of times it was done require an expe-dited investigation by a special prosecutor immediately, imme-diately, immediately,” Trump told a rally in Akron, Ohio, speaking of the State Depart-ment under Clinton.
The crowd res-ponded with rowdy chants of “Lock her up! Lock her up!”
In an earlier state-ment, Trump called the Clinton Foundation “the most corrupt enterprise in political history.”
The charity has raised some $2 billion since it was founded in 2001 after Bill Clinton left office.
“It must be shut down im-mediately,” Trump said.
The Republican nominee said the foundation had received financial contributions from various countries “that discriminated against women and gays and everybody else.”
That remark apparently referred to various nations seen as having checkered histories on human rights, Saudi Arabia among them, that made generous donations to the foundation when Clinton, now the Democratic presidential nominee, served as President Barack Obama’s secretary of state between 2009 and 2013.
“I mean, that money — it should be given back. They should not take that money,” Trump told Fox.
James Carville, Bill Clinton’s top strategist in his ultimately successful campaign for the presidency in the 1990s, warned of dire consequences should Trump and his supporters manage to shutter the foundation.
“There will be people that are gonna die because of this,” Carville told CNN, estimating that the foundation helped around 10 million people get access to low-cost HIV drugs.
“All of the people that helped shut it down will say, ‘Gee, some people, a million people, had to die, but we had to prove a point,’” Carville said.
The Clinton Foundation disburses funds domestically and overseas, handing out some $218 million in 2014.
A firewall was supposed to have been in place to ensure that the foundation’s work remained completely separate from Hillary Clinton’s role as head of US diplomacy, but critics said that barrier was permeable at best.
Newly released Clinton emails
Meanwhile, nearly 15,000 emails Hillary Clinton sent from her private server while secretary of state were released, and raised fresh concerns about potential conflicts of interest between the foundation and her service as the top US diplomat.
Judicial Watch, a conservative group that has targeted Clinton for years, released the emails, including some purporting to show that various donors to the Clinton Foundation had lobbied one of her top aides, Huma Abedin, for access to the former first lady.
The emails were made public by a judge after the group filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act.
The newly released email exchanges appeared to show that a rich donor, Casey Wasserman, asked Bill Clinton aide Doug Band to contact Abedin for help in setting up a meeting with diplomatic officials in London, raising fresh questions about special favors for top Clinton Foundation donors.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the Federal Bureau of Investigation had handed over about 14,900 new emails to the department, both personal and government-related, that would be made public.
“There was nothing that we have seen that implied any kind of untoward relationship” giving a donor to the Foundation privileged access to the then-secretary of state, he said.
Concerns were recently revived after emails surfaced showing that Band had contacted two senior State Department aides of Hillary Clinton, seeking their assistance in helping a donor — Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury — to secure a meeting with a US diplomat in Lebanon.
Bill Clinton sought to tamp down the controversy, announcing last week that — if his wife is elected president in November — the Clinton Foundation would no longer accept foreign or corporate donations, and he would step down from the board.
The former president said additional measures would also be taken under a Hillary Clinton presidency to make sure some programs are continued independently.
“Much of the foundation’s international work, like that of most global NGOs, is funded in part by donor governments’ bilateral aid programs. If Hillary is elected, we will transition those programs out of the foundation to other organizations committed to continuing their work,” Bill Clinton said.
Robby Mook, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign manager, told CNN on Sunday that the additional safeguards were “unprecedented... in terms of disclosure and limits.”
Clinton ready for ‘wacky’
debate with Trump
White House hopeful Hillary Clinton suggested Monday that rival Donald Trump could be an unpredictable adversary in upcoming presidential debates, saying she is girding for “wacky stuff.”
With the first debate scheduled to take place a month from now near New York, Clinton joked about what to expect from her unorthodox opponent.
“You’ve got to be prepared for wacky stuff. I’m planning on drawing off my experiences from elementary school,” she said on late-night talk show “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
Trump has suggested he might not attend all of the three scheduled debates.
But he is trailing badly in the polls and the highly watched events offer a much-needed chance to break through with undecided voters.
For a first-time debater, this cauldron of presidential political theater could present a daunting challenge.
Trump has thrown a series of barbs at Clinton, describing her as “crooked” and making opaque suggestions lately that she has unspecified health problems.
Wednesday, 24 August 2016 00:00 Published in Commentary
United Nations — A year-long investigation to determine who is behind deadly chemical attacks in Syria takes center stage at the United Nations this week when the panel presents its much-awaited findings.
The Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) set up by the UN Security Council has been collecting evidence in nine cases of alleged noxious gas attacks on Syrian villages in 2014 and 2015.
Diplomats are hoping that the 24-member panel tasked with identifying those responsible will finally point the finger at President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
“I expect absolute clarity that there have been these chemical weapons attacks in Syria, and — to the extent that the evidence allows it — absolute clarity about who is responsible for each one,” said British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft.
“We are very keen indeed to ensure full accountability. Whoever uses chemical weapons in Syria needs to be held accountable,” he said.
French Deputy Ambassador Alexis Lamek said “this is a very important report” and stressed that the council will have to follow up on “whatever its findings will be.”
The report will be presented on Wednesday to the council, which will then discuss the findings at a meeting on August 30.
The JIM has presented two reports to the council including an update in June in which it reported progress, but stressed that identifying the perpetrators hinged on gathering sufficient information.
The panel is looking into nine attacks on seven villages in the Hama, Idlib and Aleppo provinces.
The probe dates back to the April 2014 attack on the rebel-held village of Kafr Zita, followed by a string of alleged use of noxious gas in Idlib province on the towns of Talmenes, Al-Tamana, Qmenas, Binnish and Sarmin.
Several people including children died in the attacks and dozens were hospitalized suffering from vomiting and shortness of breath, according to rights groups that have documented witness accounts.
Blame could also be assigned to Islamic State militants suspected of using mustard gas on the town of Marea in Aleppo province on August 21 last year.
Chlorine barrel bombs
Most of the cases point to the alleged use of chlorine gas in barrel bombs dropped from helicopters.
The United States, Britain and France maintain that only the regime has helicopters, but Russia, Damascus’ ally, insists that there is no concrete proof that Assad’s forces carried out the attacks.
To build its case, the JIM has had full access to evidence gathered by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) which has sent fact-finding missions to Syria.
JIM investigators traveled to Syria twice this year, in March and May, to question government officials and interview witnesses.
If the panel concludes that the Assad regime was responsible for some of the chemical attacks, the Security Council would then decide whether to impose sanctions or possibly ask the International Criminal Court to take up the matter as a war crime.
Many diplomats say Russia appears unlikely to back such a move.
Paul Walker, a director at Green Cross International, a think tank founded by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, said he believed Russia would not block efforts to punish those responsible for chemical weapons use.
“Everyone draws the line when it comes to chemical weapons use, even if they support President Bashar al-Assad,” said Walker, an expert on the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).
“Our expectations is that they really will be able to point the finger at some entities such as the Syrian military, perhaps even certain divisions,” he said.
Chlorine use as a weapon is banned under the CWC, which Syria joined in 2013, under pressure from Russia.
Russia worked with the United States to rid Syria of its chemical weapons stockpile following a sarin gas attack on a Damascus suburb in August 2013 that left 355 dead, according to the medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
Wednesday, 24 August 2016 00:00 Published in Commentary
New York, United States — On the skids in the polls and under fire for not releasing his tax returns, Donald Trump’s campaign is sharpening a new attack on Hillary Clinton: claiming she is not healthy enough to serve as president.
The Internet is awash with conspiracy theories claiming that she may have a brain tumor, Parkinson’s or dementia, or complaining that she has “seizure-like facial expressions” or allegedly twitches.
Trump, who at 70 is 16 months older than his Democratic adversary, his spokesmen and surrogates have used innuendo and fabrication to peddle their theories that she is not physically or mentally fit.
“#WheresHillary? Sleeping!!!!!” he tweeted over the weekend.
Last week, he told voters in Iowa that Clinton was “not strong enough to be president.”
On another occasion, he maintained that she “importantly also lacks the mental and physical stamina to take on ISIS, and all of the many adversaries we face.”
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Trump supporter, stepped up the attack on Monday, telling Fox News that Clinton was “tired” and “looked sick.” Over the weekend, he came under fire for telling viewers to google Clinton’s health.
“Go online and put down ‘Hillary Clinton illness,’ take a look at the videos for yourself,” he said on Fox News.
Trump spokesman Katrina Pierson, who is not a doctor, last week diagnosed Clinton with dysphasia, a disorder that impairs speech and comprehension, and pushed conspiracy theories about her health promoted by some conservatives.
Team Clinton vehemently denies any health concerns, and released a letter from her doctor in July 2015 giving her an “excellent” bill of health.
But the root of the conspiracy theories lies in 2012, when Clinton was nearing the end of her stint as secretary of state and a stomach virus and dehydration prompted her to faint, causing what her doctor said was a concussion.
They said they found a blood clot on the brain and Clinton complained of double vision. She appeared in spectacles featuring a prism when testifying before Congress on Benghazi in January 2013.
But she was later given the all-clear. Her test results were normal, and her cancer screening evaluations all negative, said a letter released by her physician Lisa Bardack last year.
Health is a legitimate subject of debate in presidential elections — Americans want to know that the person they are going to elect to one of the toughest jobs in the planet is up to the task both mentally and physically.
But history is also peppered with coverups. The public had no idea John F. Kennedy had Addison’s disease. The severity of Woodrow Wilson’s stroke was concealed in 1919, as were concerns about Franklin Roosevelt’s health before his fourth re-election — just months before he died in 1945.
Ironically enough, Trump would be the oldest person ever elected US president if he wins. Clinton would be the second oldest after Ronald Reagan.
In 2008, then aged 71, Republican nominee and cancer survivor John McCain released more than 1,500 pages of medical history in a bid to lay to rest suggestions that he was either too old or too unhealthy to serve as president.
Jeanne Zaino, professor of political science at Iona College in New York, says Clinton may follow suit in releasing more medical records or have her doctor continue to reiterate her good health.
“I’m not sure it’s going to hurt her but it does allow them (the Trump campaign) to come up with a counter to his tax issue,” she told AFP.
What is clear is that running for president is grueling. Journalists trailing in Clinton’s wake endure punishing schedules and little sleep.
The 68-year-old grandmother of two looks remarkably fresh faced and distinctly more robust than her husband, former president Bill Clinton, who underwent heart bypass surgery in 2004.
If Trump overplays the health card, it could backfire among women voters, who already have a very low opinion of the Republican nominee.
“Stamina, the word he keeps using, has gender overtones,” Zaino said.
“To act as if this is a weak, frail woman who doesn’t have the ability, the evidence suggests otherwise, and the same thing with him,” she said.
“If you look objectively, it’s hard to make the case that either one of them are suffering from lack of stamina.”
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