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Putin, Responding to Sanctions, Orders U.S. to Cut Diplomatic Staff by 755

MOSCOW — President Vladimir V. Putin announced on Sunday that the American diplomatic mission in Russia would have to cut its staff by 755 employees, a response to the new American sanctions that escalated the tensions between Washington and Moscow.

“Over 1,000 employees — diplomats and technical workers — worked and continue to work today in Russia; 755 will have to stop this activity,” he said, according to both a clip shown on state-run Rossiya 1 television and a transcript provided by the Interfax news agency.

Although the reduction in American diplomatic staff had been announced on Friday, in response to a law passed in Congress last week expanding sanctions against Russia, the president’s statement was the first to confirm the large number of embassy personnel involved.

Speaking in a television interview on the Rossiya 1 network, Mr. Putin said that Russia had run out of patience waiting for relations with the United States to improve.

“We waited for quite some time that maybe something will change for the better, had such hope that the situation will somehow change, but, judging by everything, if it changes, it will not be soon,” Mr. Putin said in the interview, according to Interfax news agency.

Although the initial news alerts in Russia said that Mr. Putin had ordered 755 Americans out of the country, the president had actually ordered an overall staff reduction. Not all of those leaving their posts would be Americans expelled from the country.

Part of the confusion stemmed from the fact that the Russian president used a Russian verb meaning to “pack up,” when referring to his action.

In making the initial announcement on Friday, Russia announced that the American diplomatic staff would have to be reduced to 455, matching the number of Russians employed at diplomatic missions in the United States.

From the outset there was some confusion about how the Russians arrived at that number, so it was not clear how many Americans would actually have to leave Russia. Mission employees include scores of workers erecting a new building as well as translators, drivers and a large number of support staff.

Russia has additional options available for further measures against American interests, Mr. Putin warned, without going into details. But for the moment, he said, he is opposed to using them. “I hope it will not come to this,” he said.

Russia has been accused of interfering in the American presidential election, including releasing hacked emails embarrassing to the campaign of Hillary Clinton.

Congress is also investigating the possibility of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, with Mr. Trump’s oldest son, Donald J. Trump Jr., recently confirming that he met with a Russian lawyer linked to the government who wanted to discuss removing an earlier round of sanctions.

Mr. Putin has denied any Russian interference in the American election, saying that anti-Russian sentiment in the United States was being used to drive an internal political battle.

On Friday, the White House announced that President Trump would sign the law passed by Congress last week that strengthens existing sanctions and expands some of them, especially in the oil sector.

Mr. Putin said in the interview released Sunday that it was important not to let such actions go unanswered.

In December, President Barack Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats and shuttered two Russian diplomatic country estates in Maryland and on Long Island. Mr. Putin did not respond at that time, indicating he would wait for better relations with the next administration.

Even while announcing the sizable cuts on Monday, Mr. Putin held out hopes that the worsening relations with Washington could be reversed. He noted the United States and Russia had cooperated in trying to establish safe zones in Syria, and that there was a long history of shared projects in the oil sector.

In announcing the response on Friday, Russia said that it wanted to reduce the American diplomatic presence in Russia to 455 people, mirroring the number of Russian diplomats accredited to the United States. In addition to the main embassy in Moscow, the United States also runs consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok.

On Friday, the United States Embassy in Moscow issued a short statement in which the outgoing American ambassador, John F. Tefft, expressed “his strong disappointment and protest” over the cuts.

In addition, the Kremlin said that as of Tuesday, it will block access to two American diplomatic properties: a warehouse in Moscow and a bucolic picnic ground along the Moscow River. That move was basically a tit-for-tat response to the seizures in the United States.

Mr. Putin had made no secret of the fact that he hoped Mr. Trump would return the two estates as a friendly gesture when the two met for the first time earlier this month, but that did not happen. The American government has said the two Russian properties it closed were not just recreational areas, but were also used for intelligence gathering.

The number of American targets inside Russia that the Kremlin retaliate against is limited, particularly if Moscow is worried about damaging the investment climate or about other economic fallout just as it recovers from a recession.

Outside its borders, however, is a different matter. Moscow might have shown some restraint in eastern Ukraine or in Syria because of the expectation of improving ties with Washington, but now, the Kremlin may be looking for places to challenge the United States.

The initial announcement from the Russian Foreign Ministry about the cuts said that if the United States responded to the latest measure with any further expulsions, Russia would match them.

The White House lobbied against the new sanctions law, calling it a curb on presidential power because it would effectively force Mr. Trump to seek congressional approval before lifting any sanctions. Its passage in a Republican-controlled Congress make clear the level of unease in Mr. Trump’s own party about his repeated praise of Mr. Putin and of Russia.

The new law would strengthen sanctions first directed against Russia in 2014 over its annexation of Crimea and its destabilization of Ukraine. Those sanctions curbed American involvement in the oil industry and limited Russian access to Western financial markets. Russia responded with a broad ban on Western food imports.

The new legislation would expand some of the measures, particularly in the energy market. European countries have expressed concern about the law’s potential impact on the energy market on the Continent, because it might affect the expansion of the Nord Stream pipeline that carries Russian natural gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea.

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Russia Seizes 2 U.S. Properties and Orders Embassy to Cut Staff

http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/28/europe/russia-us-sanctions/index.html

 

Moscow (CNN) Russia’s Foreign Ministry demanded Friday that the United States cut the number of diplomatic staff it has in Russia and said it would seize two US diplomatic properties, in a sharp response to a new sanctions bill passed by the US Congress a day earlier.

The order — which affects the US Embassy in Moscow and consulates in St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok — would reduce the number of US diplomatic and technical staff to 455, the same number Russia has in the US, by September 1.
Russia is also suspending the use of a US storage facility in Moscow and a country house, or dacha, outside of Moscow by August 1.
In the statement, the ministry says: “Any new unilateral actions by the US authorities to reduce the number of our diplomats in the United States will be met with a mirror response.”
Senate sends Russia sanctions bill to Trump

Senate sends Russia sanctions bill to Trump 00:45
Thirty-five Russian diplomats were expelled from the United States in December under sanctions imposed by President Barack Obama in response to Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 US election. The sanctions also included the closure of two Russian compounds, in Maryland and New York, used for intelligence purposes.
US Ambassador to Russia John Tefft has expressed his “strong disappointment and protest” over Moscow’s decision to expel the US diplomats, according to a statement to CNN from the US Embassy in Moscow.
“We have received the Russian government notification. Ambassador Tefft expressed his strong disappointment and protest. We have passed the notification back to Washington for review,” the statement said.

Trump still to sign or veto bill

Moscow’s latest move comes a day after the US Senate passed sweeping legislation slapping new sanctions on Russia and limiting President Donald Trump’s ability to remove them.
The bill, which also includes new sanctions on Iran and North Korea, was a product of lengthy negotiations between the House and Senate. In the end, it was passed by both chambers overwhelmingly.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters late Thursday that the President would review the sanctions bill. She did not say whether Trump would sign or veto the measure when it reaches his desk.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on a conference call Friday that Moscow had decided to retaliate before the bill went to Trump because “technically the form passed by the Senate is more important” and is “almost final.”
Asked if Russian President Vladimir Putin had authorized the move, Peskov said such measures are “impossible without the President’s permission.”
He added that possible amendments to the bill would not change the “essence” of the matter.

Putin: Anti-Russia hysteria

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the new sanctions law “confirms the extreme aggressiveness of the United States in its foreign affairs.”
It accused the US of using the law to “create unfair competitive advantages for the US in the global economy” and said its actions breached international law. “Such blackmail, aimed at limiting the interaction of foreign partners with Russia, carries a threat to many countries and international businesses.”
Speaking in Finland on Thursday, Putin said he “very much regrets” the worsening of relations between Russia and the United States, blaming it on “anti-Russia hysteria” in domestic US politics.
He said a lot of Russian diplomats had been expelled “without any particular reason” and warned that Russia would have to respond at some point to what he called “boorish behavior” by the United States.

Italy: Govt. Orders Towns to “Find Space” for 250,000 Invaders in 2017

The Italian government has ordered all Italian municipalities to find space for an expected 250,000 new invaders — most from sub-Saharan Africa — this this year, up from about 180,000 last year.

(New Observer Online)

More than 500,000 Third World invaders pretending to be refugees have landed in Italy since 2014, and at least 200,000 are still being house in “reception centers” across the country.

Meanwhile, about half of Italians do not want the country to take in more people, pollster Renato Mannheimer told Reuters news agency.

Italy is “accommodating” a rising numbers of African invaders because countries to the north have tightened their borders and some EU states have refused to take part in a plan to relocate 160,000 of the invaders from Italy and Greece.

Just over 20,000 invaders have so far been relocated under the plan and the European Union has begun legal action against Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic for refusing to accept any of them.

Meanwhile, there has been no let-up in the invasion, with ever-increasing numbers of Africans taking advantage of European liberals in both the state and private sectors, who will now pick them up within five or ten miles of the Libyan coast, and transport them to Italy free of charge.

The number of those who are invading from Africa is up by more than 40 percent compared to the previous year, it has emerged.

On the shores of Greece there are now “only” between 80 and 100 invaders arriving every day, whereas before around 2,500 were landing every day, according to EU border force “Frontex” chief Fabrice Leggeri.

Among those who arrive from Africa via the central Mediterranean and Libya, most come from west Africa. They are Senegalese, Guineans, Nigerians.

According to a recent report by the EU’s law enforcement agency Europol, gangs smuggling the invader-scroungers to or within Europe raked in 4.7 billion-5.7 billion euros ($5.1 billion-$6.1 billion) in 2015.

The funds are sometimes moved openly through money transfer service Western Union, especially in west Africa. In east Africa, traffickers more often use ‘hawala’, an informal system of payment based on trust that is far more difficult to trace than bank transfers.

Invaders from west Africa begin by taking the bus, Leggeri said. The territory of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is somewhat similar to the visa-free Schengen zone, as individuals can travel freely within it for a modest fee of around 20 euros.

Once the scrounging hordes arrive in Niamey, capital of Niger, the illegal activity begins and they must fork out up to 150 euros each to reach the north of the country and the Libyan border.

Then comes the crossing which can cost up to 1,000 euros, depending on the boat.

The east Africa route—which originates from the Horn of Africa and is taken by Eritreans, Somalians and Ethiopians—is more expensive.

The journey is organized by national criminal gangs that work together, so a Sudanese network, for example, will hand over its clients to a Libyan network at the border.

There, the fee can run to 3,000 euros, from the Horn of Africa all the way to Italy.

Germany: ZOG Orders Bundeswehr Barracks Inspection after Nazi Symbols Found

The top brass of the zionist occupied German military has ordered an inspection of all of its barracks after discovering NS-era memorabilia at two of them, the defence ministry said.

“The inspector general of the Bundeswehr (Germany’s armed forces) has ordered an inspection of all of its properties in order to see if any of them contain memorabilia of the Wehrmacht and if so, to remove it,” a defence ministry spokesman told AFP.

The move follows a growing liberal hysteria over nationalist leanings of some within the German military which has shaken the anti-patrotic army and the defence ministry over the past two weeks.

Details emerged in late April following the arrest of a 28-year-old soldier stationed at a Franco-German base near Strasbourg who had expressed nationalist views and was plotting an attack disguised as a Syrian refugee.

 

Following his arrest, Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen scrapped a trip to the United States and went to his base in Illkirch in northeastern France.

There, officials found Wehrmacht memorabilia openly displayed in the common room without any apparent effort to remove it.

The ministry, which has banned the patriotic symbols, then discovered other Wehrmacht items at another base in southwestern Germany.

– ‘Giant swastika’ –

Press reports also referred to another “incident” at the Illkirch base in 2012 when German soldiers painted a huge swastika on the floor of the base to provoke their French counterparts ahead of a football match between Bayern Munich and Lille.

A battalion of German combat troops has been stationed there since 2010 as part of the joint Franco-German Brigade.

As the hysteria widened, Von der Leyen called her generals to order, demanding they show zero tolerance with any nationalist tendencies within the ranks.

The minister, who is close to Chancellor Angela Merkel, has sharply rapped the armed forces for leadership failures, criticising “a misunderstood esprit de corps” that led superior officers to “look the other way”.

“This process of clarification demands courage and tenacity,” she told the Bild newspaper.

“We must all support it, from the general down to the new recruits because it concerns the reputation of the Bundeswehr.”

Trump Issues Surprise Orders on Mexican Holiday… Libs Will Be Irate

Under the past two administrations, there has been an official celebration of Mexico’s Cinco de Mayo holiday at the White House, but that tradition has come to an end under the current “America First” administration of President Donald Trump.

The Hill reported that the 16-year-old tradition will instead be a much smaller affair held somewhere other than the White House and will feature Vice President Mike Pence as the host.

The reported modification of the White House celebration of the Mexican holiday was initially revealed by Spanish-language media outlet La Opinion, which noted that there had been no official announcement of any change in plans and cited unnamed government sources. The White House did not respond to requests for comment, according to The Hill.

Hispanic activists weren’t pleased.

“The decision of the White House to renounce the celebration of Cinco de Mayo is another slap for many Mexican Americans and Latinos,” complained Felix Sanchez, co-founder and president of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts. “Instead of embracing our nation’s multicultural heritage, we are deepening divisions, not looking for common ground.”

The tradition of hosting a big event celebrating Cinco de Mayo at the White House began under former President George W. Bush and was continued under his successor, former President Barack Obama, who welcomed some 500 guests, a celebrity chef and popular Mexican band to the celebration in 2016.

That occurred at the same time that then-candidate Trump posted his now infamous “taco bowl” tweet in honor of the Mexican holiday, a tweet that was criticized by many Hispanics, Mexicans and of course, the liberal media.

Here is the tweet that drew so much condemnation and accusations of racism toward Hispanics, in case you had forgot:

As for the reported decision by the Trump administration not to hold a Cinco de Mayo celebration on White House grounds this year, honestly who can blame them? It likely would have sparked outrage and boycotts and harsh criticisms, much like everything else the administration does.

Meanwhile, the only Cinco de Mayo celebrations that have been officially canceled thus far are those held in various cities around the country by Mexican-Americans, amid fears that immigration agents will monitor the events and round up any illegal immigrants in attendance, according to a report from The Washington Times.

It is worth noting that the Cinco de Mayo holiday — which marks the date in 1862 of the Battle of Puebla, during which the Mexican army held off invading French forces — is typically only solemnly observed in Mexico, with Mexican-Americans and others in the U.S. being the ones treating the holiday as an occasion for festive celebration. (Mexico’s real Independence Day is Sept. 16.)

Though Trump-haters will be upset at the lack of celebration at the White House, they would have been upset regardless, so this move should be viewed less as an effort to offend Mexicans and more likely an effort to either poke the liberal media or simply not waste time on a non-American holiday that isn’t even really celebrated in its country of origin.

Sessions orders Justice Department to review all police reform agreements

Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered Justice Department officials to review reform agreements with troubled police forces nationwide, saying it was necessary to ensure these pacts do not work against the Trump administration’s goals of promoting officer safety and morale while fighting violent crime.

In a two-page memo released Monday, Sessions said agreements reached previously between the department’s civil rights division and local police departments — a key legacy of the Obama administration — will be subject to review by his two top deputies, throwing into question whether all of the agreements will stay in place.

The memo was released not long before the department’s civil rights lawyers asked a federal judge to postpone until at least the end of June a hearing on a sweeping police reform agreement, known as a consent decree, with the Baltimore Police Department that was announced just days before President Trump took office.

“The Attorney General and the new leadership in the Department are actively developing strategies to support the thousands of law enforcement agencies across the country that seek to prevent crime and protect the public,” Justice officials said in their filing. “The Department is working to ensure that those initiatives effectively dovetail with robust enforcement of federal laws designed to preserve and protect civil rights.”

Sessions fears short-term spike in crime ‘is not a blip, but it’s the start of a dangerous trend’

Attorney General Jeff Sessions told a group of law enforcement officers in St. Louis that he fears crime rates in the United States could rise significantly on March 31. (Reuters)

Sessions has often criticized the effectiveness of consent decrees and has vowed in recent speeches to more strongly support law enforcement.

Since 2009, the Justice Department opened 25 investigations into law enforcement agencies and has been enforcing 14 consent decrees, along with some other agreements. Civil rights advocates fear that Sessions’s memo could particularly imperil the status of agreements that have yet to be finalized, such as a pending agreement with the Chicago Police Department.

“This is terrifying,” said Jonathan Smith, executive director of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, who spent five years as the department’s chief of special litigation, overseeing investigations into 23 police departments such as New Orleans, Cleveland and Ferguson, Mo. “This raises the question of whether, under the current attorney general, the Department of Justice is going to walk away from its obligation to ensure that law enforcement across the country is following the Constitution.”

The Baltimore agreement, reached after Freddie Gray died in April 2015 following an injury in police custody, calls for changes including training officers on how to resolve conflicts without force. The Justice Department asked for 90 additional days to assess whether the agreement fits with the “directives of the President and the Attorney General,” according to the filing Monday evening in U.S District Court of the District of Maryland. U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar had scheduled the public hearing for Thursday.

The filing notes that Baltimore has already made its own progress toward police reform and states that “it may be possible to take these changes into account where appropriate to ensure further compliance while protecting public safety.”

Officials who negotiated the agreement criticized the move. Vanita Gupta, former head of the Civil Rights Division under President Barack Obama, said that “the request for a delay is alarming and signals a retreat from the Justice Department’s commitment to civil rights and public safety in Baltimore.”

Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh also said she and Police Commissioner Kevin Davis oppose the delay. “Any interruption in moving forward may have the effect of eroding the trust that we are working hard to establish,” Pugh said.

But Gene Ryan, president of the union that represents rank-and-file police officers in Baltimore, said he welcomed the federal government’s request. Ryan said his chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police is in favor of reform but worries that the process was hasty.

The agreement reached between Baltimore and the Justice Department was announced in January, coming after a push by Obama administration officials to secure police reform agreements before Trump took office. The department, in a report last year, said the Baltimore police engaged in racially discriminatory policing and used excessive force because of “systemic deficiencies” in the department.

In the blistering report, federal investigators wrote that police in Baltimore, driven by a “legacy of zero tolerance enforcement,” conducted stops, searches and arrests that violated the Constitution.

The federal civil rights probe was launched afterGray, a 25-year-old, died of a spinal cord injury he suffered while in police custody. That episode added Baltimore to the list of cities that saw heated demonstrations erupt following controversial encounters between police and black residents.

After months of negotiations, federal and city officials announced an agreement to improve the department’s training, strengthen its responses to sexual assaults and encourage officers to “use force in a manner that avoids unnecessary injury or risk of injury to officers and civilians.”

Then-Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch described the decree, which must be approved by a federal judge, as “binding” and something that “will live on.” A day later, Lynch went to Chicago for the release of a sprawling federal investigation into that city’s police department that similarly assailed its practices. It’s now unclear what will happen with either of the agreements.

Adolphus Pruitt, the president of the St. Louis NAACP, questioned whether the department would also review investigations where officers were not deemed to be at fault.

“We’ve got just as many times that the Justice Department was called in to look at an incident and they found no probable cause for charges, said Pruitt, who was among the first to call for a Justice Department investigation into the August 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. “Are they going to go back and look at those? The attorney general wants to re-examine something? Hell, I’ve got some stuff he can take a look at!”

Pruitt said he fears what the review will signal to communities awaiting reform.

“To the people who told their stories to investigators and cheered the steps toward reforms, it sends a message that the Department of Justice is not going to keep up their end of the deal,” Pruitt said.

Islamic State orders evacuation of Raqqa amid dam collapse fears

Syrian activists said Sunday the Islamic State group has ordered an evacuation from its de facto capital, Raqqa, following warnings that the Tabqa Dam upstream on the Euphrates River could collapse.

The activist-run Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently said civilians are fleeing Raqqa en masse. It said the militants are warning residents that the dam is out of service, weakened by US-led coalition airstrikes, and could collapse. It said water levels are rising behind the dam.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition-run monitoring group, also reported the dam is out of service.

The two groups rely on local contacts to smuggle information out of IS-held territory.

Fighting at the dam held by IS in northern Syria put it out of service, risking dangerous rising water levels, a technical source told AFP.

A Kurdish-Arab alliance known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is battling to take Tabqa dam and nearby Tabqa town from IS. The US-backed SDF has been battling IS near the militant-held dam as part of a broader campaign to take Raqqa.

But a source at the dam told AFP that the fighting had damaged its power station, forcing a halt to operations on Sunday.

“Shelling on the area… that supplies that dam with electricity has put it out of service,” the source said.

“The work needed to fix the problem is not possible because there is not sufficient staff available as a result of the intensive shelling in the area of the dam,” he added.

“If the problem is not fixed, it will begin to pose a danger to the dam.”

The source could not confirm what kind of shelling damaged the power station, but there has been heavy fighting nearby as well as air raids by the US-led coalition against IS in support of SDF fighters in the area.

A member of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) flashes the sign for victory in the village of Sabah al-Khayr on February 21, 2017. (Delil Souleiman/AFP)

SDF spokesman Talal Sello insisted there was no imminent danger to the dam, which is Syria’s largest and sits on the Euphrates River.

“There have been no airstrikes on the dam,” he told AFP.

SDF forces were helicoptered behind IS lines last week by US forces to begin their assault on the dam, which is around 35 miles (55 kilometers) west of Raqqa.

“We carried out this operation to land there to avoid shelling or damage to the dam,” Sello said.

SDF fighters reached one of the entrances of the dam on Friday, battling IS in clashes in which jihadists were killed and wounded.

But the dam remains under IS control, with SDF progress being hampered by the exposed nature of the terrain, which is also heavily mined, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said.

IS issued warnings through its propaganda agency Amaq warning the dam “is threatened with collapse at any moment because of American strikes and a large rise in water levels.”

But the source at the dam told AFP there had not yet been significant water level increases, though he acknowledged levels would rise if the facility remained out of service.

Earlier this month, the UN’s humanitarian coordination agency OCHA said water levels in the Euphrates had risen 10 meters (33 feet) since late January, in part from heavy rainfall and snow.

But it warned that damage to the dam “could lead to massive scale flooding across Raqqa and as far away as Deir Ezzor” province to the southeast.

Any further rises in the water level or damage to the Tabqa dam “would have catastrophic humanitarian implications in all areas downstream”, the UN warned.

More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since its conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.

Trump Administration Orders Tougher Screening of Visa Applicants

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is making it tougher for millions of visitors to enter the United States by demanding new security checks before giving visas to tourists, business travelers and relatives of American residents.

Diplomatic cables sent last week from Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson to all American embassies instructed consular officials to broadly increase scrutiny. It was the first evidence of the “extreme vetting” Mr. Trump promised during the presidential campaign.

The new rules generally do not apply to citizens of 38 countries — including most of Europe and longstanding allies like Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea — who can be speedily admitted into the United States under the visa waiver program. That program does not cover citizens from any country in the Middle East or Africa.

Even stricter security checks for people from six predominantly Muslim nations remain on hold because federal courts have temporarily blocked President Trump’s travel ban.

But Mr. Trump and his national security team are not waiting to toughen the rules to decide who can enter the United States. Embassy officials must now scrutinize a broader pool of visa applicants to determine if they pose security risks to the United States, according to four cables sent between March 10 and March 17.

That extra scrutiny will include asking applicants detailed questions about their background and making mandatory checks of social media history if a person has ever been in territory controlled by the Islamic State.

Mr. Trump has spoken regularly of his concern about the threat of “radical Islamic terrorism” from immigrants. But it is unclear who, exactly, will be targeted for the extra scrutiny since Mr. Tillerson’s cables leave that decision up to security officers at each embassy.

Still, taken together, consular officials and immigration advocates said the administration’s moves will increase the likelihood of denial for those seeking to come to America, and will further slow down a bureaucratic approval process that can already take months or even years for those flagged for extra investigation. In 2016, the United States issued more than 10 million visas.

There are legitimate reasons someone might be targeted, such as evidence of a connection to terrorism or crime. But advocates also said they worry about people being profiled for extra scrutiny because of their name or nationality.

“This will certainly slow down the screening process and impose a substantial burden on these applicants,” said Greg Chen, the director of advocacy for the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “It will make it much harder and create substantial delays.”

The cables from Mr. Tillerson, which were reported by Reuters, make clear that the Trump administration wants a more intense focus on the potential for a serious threat when making decisions about who should receive a visa.

“Consular officers should not hesitate to refuse any case presenting security concerns,” Mr. Tillerson wrote in the cables, titled “Implementing Immediate Heightened Screening and Vetting of Visa Applications.”

“All visa decisions are national security decisions,” the secretary of state added.

During his presidential campaign, Mr. Trump accused the Obama administration of failing to properly screen people coming into the United States, a claim former officials in that administration reject. As a candidate, Mr. Trump vowed to ban all incoming Muslims until leaders could “figure out what the hell is going on.” Later, he backed away from a total ban on Muslims but promised “extreme vetting” of those trying to come to the United States.

The president’s first attempt to put tougher screening in place was the executive order aimed at temporarily blocking refugees and people whom Mr. Trump called “bad dudes” from predominantly Muslim countries. Courts blocked the first version of the president’s order after a chaotic rollout just days into his term. A second order was blocked this month.

But on March 6, the same day that Mr. Trump issued his revised travel ban, he also wrote a presidential memorandum ordering the secretary of state, the attorney general and the secretary of homeland security to “implement protocols and procedures” to enhance visa screening.

Administration officials said the cables from Mr. Tillerson are among the actions being taken to carry out that memorandum. Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman, said the steps aim “to more effectively identify individuals who could pose a threat to the United States.”

Most people seeking entry to the United States, for family, business or tourism reasons, must apply for a visa. Embassy officials can deny a visa for anyone suspected of being a threat, conducting fraud or planning to stay longer than allowed.

The seven-page unclassified cable that Mr. Tillerson sent on March 15, which was provided to The New York Times, makes clear that the process of securing an entry visa is about to get harder and longer at diplomatic posts around the globe.

“Consular chiefs must immediately convene post’s law enforcement and intelligence community partners” to develop what Mr. Tillerson described in the cable as “sets of post-applicant populations warranting increased scrutiny.”

People targeted for increased scrutiny, Mr. Tillerson said in his cable, may be subject to a decision made only after more rigorous screening.

The March 15 cable suggests areas of inquiry during a required interview, including: the applicant’s travel history, addresses and work history for 15 years; and all phone numbers, email addresses and social media handles used by the applicant in the past five years.

Another cable, sent two days later, indicated that consular officers should not begin asking for the 15-year travel and work histories until the State Department received authorization for those questions from the Office of Management and Budget. It is unclear why that permission had not been granted.

The State Department also urged its embassy officials to delay or reschedule interviews if an applicant was unable to provide all of the information demanded. And Mr. Tillerson acknowledged in the cables that the extra scrutiny would cause “backlogs to rise,” even as he recommended that officials should each interview no more than 120 visa applicants each day.

Mr. Chen, of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, questioned how a single interviewer who conducts 120 interviews per day — at about five minutes per interview — could improve security for the visa process.

“It’s highly unlikely they could obtain information that demonstrates whether someone is a national security threat in such a brief interview process,” he said.

In addition to the new security protocols for embassies, the four diplomatic cables sent last week offer a view into how the administration hopes to enact the travel ban if the president ever gets the chance.

The March 15 cable, which was sent before federal courts blocked the revised travel ban, increases scrutiny on people from the six countries in the president’s executive order: Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Syria, Somalia and Libya. It also includes a section calling for increased scrutiny for Iraqi nationals.

For those from the six countries covered in the ban, the cable envisions a process for potentially granting a limited number of exemptions from the ban by issuing a waiver, but only after vigorous screening. Those people would be questioned about their past 15 years of travel and occupational history, as well as whether they have visited territory controlled by the Islamic State.

A March 16 cable suspended “all enforcement” regarding the tougher scrutiny on the countries from Mr. Trump’s executive order.

UN chief orders report accusing Israel of ‘apartheid’ pulled from web

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres requested the removal of a report accusing Israel of apartheid from the website of the UN body that published it, Reuters reported Friday, citing an unnamed official in the international body.

Guterres had previously distanced himself from the report by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), which is comprised of 18 Arab countries.

The report was still available online Friday morning US-time, but was later removed.

The United States on Wednesday had demanded that the report be withdrawn altogether.

“The United States is outraged by the report,” US Ambassador Nikki Haley said in a statement. “The United Nations secretariat was right to distance itself from this report, but it must go further and withdraw the report altogether.”

Based in Beirut, ESCWA lists the state of Palestine as a full member, and works to strengthen cooperation and promote development.

“That such anti-Israel propaganda would come from a body whose membership nearly universally does not recognize Israel is unsurprising,” said Haley.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres shaking hands with new US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley at the United Nations in New York, January 27, 2017. (AFP/Bryan R. Smith)

Haley has accused the United Nations of being biased against Israel and has vowed as President Donald Trump’s envoy to staunchly defend Israel at the world body.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric has said “the report as it stands does not reflect the views of the secretary-general” and was done without consultations with the UN secretariat.

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon slammed the commission on Wednesday for releasing the report which accuses Israel of establishing “an apartheid regime that oppresses and dominates the Palestinian people as a whole.”

Danon said the “attempt to smear and falsely label the only true democracy in the Middle East by creating a false analogy is despicable and constitutes a blatant lie.”

Rima Khalaf (YouTube Screen Shot)

“It comes as no surprise that an organization headed by an individual who has called for boycotts against Israel, and compared our democracy to the most terrible regimes of the twentieth century, would publish such a report. We call on the Secretary-General to disassociate the UN from this biased and deceitful report,” he said in reference to ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf, a Jordanian national.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, speaks to the UN Security Council after it passed an anti-settlement resolution, December 23, 2016 (UN Screenshot)

The report published Wednesday, titled “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid,” says that “available evidence establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that Israel is guilty of policies and practices that constitute the crime of apartheid as legally defined in instruments of international law.”

The Beirut-based commission slammed Israel’s Law of Return, “conferring on Jews worldwide the right to enter Israel and obtain Israeli citizenship regardless of their countries of origin and whether or not they can show links to Israel-Palestine, while withholding any comparable right from Palestinians, including those with documented ancestral homes in the country,” as a policy of “demographic engineering” meant to uphold Israel’s status as the Jewish state.

The report further accuses Israel of “practices” that have fragmented Palestinians, arguing that it is the “principal method by which Israel imposes an apartheid regime.”

“This fragmentation operates to stabilize the Israeli regime of racial domination over the Palestinians and to weaken the will and capacity of the Palestinian people to mount a unified and effective resistance,” the report reads.

Richard Falk (photo credit: AP/Keystone/Salvatore Di Nolfi/File)

The report was compiled by Richard Falk, a Princeton professor emeritus with a long track record of vehemently anti-Israel rhetoric who previously was the UN’s Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Palestine, and by Virginia Tilley, an American political scientist who authored the book “The One-State Solution” in 2005.

Haley described Falk as “a man who has repeatedly made biased and deeply offensive comments about Israel and espoused ridiculous conspiracy theories.”

NY governor orders probe as Jewish cemetery in Rochester vandalized

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday ordered state police to launch a full investigation after a Jewish cemetery in Rochester was vandalized, the third such incident in the United States in less than two weeks.

Five headstones were found toppled Thursday morning at the Waad Hakolel Cemetery, also known as the Stone Road Cemetery, in the city in western New York.

“A number of headstones were recently vandalized and toppled over at Waad Hakolel Cemetery in Rochester,” the governor said in a statement. “Given the wave of bomb threats targeting Jewish community centers and disturbing vandalism at Jewish cemeteries nationwide, I am directing the State Police to immediately launch a full investigation into this matter.”

The president of the nonprofit managing the cemetery said he did not want to call the incident a hate crime or anti-Semitism.

“I don’t want to label it a hate crime. I don’t think there’s any proof of that. I don’t want to label it anti-Semitism. I don’t think there’s any proof of that,” said Michael Phillips, president of the Britton Road Association, according to The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

Headstones were toppled at the Waad Hakolel Cemetery, also known as the Stone Road Cemetery, in Rochester, NY (Courtesy of News 10 NBC WHEC/ via JTA)

However, Cuomo said the attack appeared to be a part of a dramatic increase in hate crimes in the state recently.

“In recent weeks and months, the family of New York – people of all creeds, colors and backgrounds – have witnessed a dramatic increase in acts of hate and intolerance. The State Police Hate Crimes Task Force, in partnership with federal and local authorities, have launched aggressive investigations into reported hate crimes across the state,” Cuomo said.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo attending the Cadillac House grand opening in New York City, June 1, 2016. (Mike Pont/WireImage/Getty Images/via JTA)

“New York has zero tolerance for bias or discrimination of any kind, and we will always stand united in the face of anti-Semitism and divisiveness. It is repugnant to everything we believe as New Yorkers, and we will continue to do everything in our power to bring to justice those responsible for these cowardly attacks on the values we hold dear,” he said.

The last two weeks saw vandalism at Jewish cemeteries in Philadelphia and St. Louis, as well as two more waves of bomb threats called into Jewish community centers, schools and institutions across the country, representing the fourth and fifth waves of such harassment this year.

The incident came a day after the New York Police Department said anti-Semitic incidents are up 94 percent in New York City over this time last year.

The figure is part of a 55% increase overall in the number of hate crimes in the city as compared to the same time last year. Through the first two months of this year, 35 anti-Semitic incidents have been reported, compared to 18 through February 2016.

Overall, the total number of hate crime incidents in the city for the first two months of 2017 was 68, up from 44 last year, according to the NYPD. Among the incidents, six people were targeted for being black, three for being Muslim and eight for their sexual orientation.

“Hate crimes are up in this city. They’re driven primarily by anti-Semitic hate crimes,” Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said at a news conference Wednesday.

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