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Former CIA director Mike Pompeo has been confirmed as secretary of state after the Senate voted 57-42 to approve him as America’s top diplomat.

Mike Pompeo had been accused by Democrats of being a war hawk and harboring anti-Muslim and homophobic views.

He is the second secretary of state under Trump administration. Rex Tillerson, was fired last month by the president via Twitter amid a personality clash.

On April 26, Republican senators, who control the Senate, voted unanimously to confirm Mike Pompeo. Six Democrats joined them.

Some of those Democrats – including North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin – come from conservative-leaning states where President Donald Trump won in 2016, and are facing tough midterm elections in November.

The approval comes in time for Mike Pompeo to lead a US delegation to NATO foreign minister talks in Brussels this weekend.

Mike Pompeo is expected to depart for the trip only hours after being formally confirmed.

In a statement, President Trump applauded Mike Pompeo as someone who “will always put the interests of America first”.

The president said: “Having a patriot of Mike’s immense talent, energy, and intellect leading the Department of State will be an incredible asset for our country at this critical time in history.”

Image source Wikimedia

CIA Director Mike Pompeo Had Secret Meeting with Kim Jong-un in North Korea

President Trump Fires Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Naming CIA Director Mike Pompeo as Replacement

Mike Pompeo has been arranging a summit between President Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The meeting is expected to be held in the coming months.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders tweeted a photo of Mike Pompeo watching on TV as the Senate held their vote.

Before Mike Pompeo was confirmed, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, described him as the “perfect person to come in at this time and lead” talks with North Korea.

Over the Easter holiday Mike Pompeo travelled to Pyongyang, where he met Kim Jong-un.

On April 24, President Trump described Kim Jong-un as “very honorable”, after months of deriding him as “Little Rocket Man”.

US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, also congratulated Mike Pompeo following the confirmation vote.

After travelling to Brussels, Mike Pompeo will next go to Israel, where he is expected to meet PM Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

According to a statement from the state department, during that trip Mike Pompeo will also visit Saudi Arabia and Jordan to “discuss critical and bilateral issues”.


The US embassy in London has been criticized by Democrats for a blog post on its website about President Donald Trump’s luxury Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

The blog post, published on April 5, details the history of the 114-room mansion, which is often described as Donald Trump’s “winter White House”.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Oregon Senator Ron Wyden accused the state department of promoting President Trump’s “private club”.

The department has issued no comment.

In her tweet, Nancy Pelosi wrote: “Why is @realDonaldTrump’s State Dept promoting the President’s private club? #Trump100Days.”

Meanwhile, Senator Ron Wyden wrote: “Yes, I am curious @StateDept. Why are taxpayer $$ promoting the President’s private country club?”

Image source Wikimedia

State department spokesman Mark Toner was not aware of the post when the issue was raised by the media on April 24, CNN reports.

The blog post says that “Mar-a-Lago, President Trump’s Florida estate, has become well known as the president frequently travels there to work or host foreign leaders”.

Donald Trump has hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe at the resort.

The post also states that Donald Trump “is not the first president to have access to Mar-a-Lago as a Florida retreat, but he is the first one to use it.

“By visiting this <<winter White House>>, Trump is belatedly fulfilling the dream of Mar-a-Lago’s original owner and designer.”

Since taking office, Donald Trump has spent seven weekends at Mar-a-Lago, which he bought in 1985 and turned into a private members club.

The president’s visits have led to concerns over costs and mixing business with politics.

The club has raised its initiation fees from $100,000 to $200,000 following Donald Trump’s election.

Since President Trump’s inauguration, Democratic groups and ethics watchdogs have been monitoring whether there has been a potential conflict of interest that could benefit his business holdings while he is in office.

In December, Donald Trump announced that he planned to shut his charitable foundation, although an investigation into its practices continues.


US officials say they will go ahead with high-level talks with Russia on Friday despite Moscow’s decision to grant asylum to Edward Snowden.

Some members of Edward Snowden’s family are applying for visas to visit him in Russia, his lawyer says.

Edward Snowden was granted asylum by Russia despite repeated requests from the US that he be returned to America.

He leaked details about a secret data-gathering programme.

The US state department said Secretary of State John Kerry and US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel would hold talks on pressing bilateral and global issues with their Russian counterparts in Washington, including Syria and Iran’s nuclear programme.

The two sides were also to discuss Edward Snowden, it added.

President Barack Obama has meanwhile said he is “disappointed” that Russia granted asylum to Edward Snowden.

US will go ahead with high-level talks with Russia despite Moscow's decision to grant asylum to Edward Snowden

US will go ahead with high-level talks with Russia despite Moscow’s decision to grant asylum to Edward Snowden

Speaking during an interview for Tuesday’s broadcast of The Tonight Show on NBC, Barack Obama accused Moscow of occasionally adopting a “Cold War mentality”.

Barack Obama said: “What I say to President [Vladimir] Putin is, that’s the past and… we’ve got to think about the future. And there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to cooperate more effectively than we do.”

Edward Snowden’s whereabouts in Russia are not publicly known after he slipped away from Moscow’s international airport last week.

But his lawyer says he has now registered an address within Russian territory and his father, Lon Snowden, is waiting for a visa to visit him.

He said Edward Snowden wanted his father’s advice on what to do with his new life.

“We do not have a set date yet, but we have been working closely with Anatoly Kucherena, Ed Snowden’s attorney, on setting a definitive date which will be some time in August,” Mattie Fein, a representative for Lon Snowden, told the Reuters news agency.

Russia’s decision to grant temporary asylum to the former intelligence analyst has strained relations between Moscow and the US.

Edward Snowden leaked details of the National Security Agency’s electronic surveillance programme which gathers data about emails and phone calls made by American citizens.

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The US State Department has warned citizens and non-emergency government staff to leave Yemen “immediately” due to security threats.

It comes after the sudden closure of 20 US embassies and consulates on Sunday.

This was prompted by intercepted conversations between two senior al-Qaeda figures, including top leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, US media said.

The US earlier said the closures in North Africa and the Middle East were “out of an abundance of caution”.

A global travel alert issued on Tuesday said: “The US Department of State warns US citizens of the high security threat level in Yemen due to terrorist activities and civil unrest.

“The department urges US citizens to defer travel to Yemen and those US citizens currently living in Yemen to depart immediately.”

It added that “the security threat level in Yemen is extremely high”.

The Yemeni capital has been experiencing unprecedented security measures, with hundreds of armoured military vehicles deployed to secure the presidential palace, vital infrastructural buildings and Western embassies in the capital.

The US State Department has warned citizens and non-emergency government staff to leave Yemen "immediately" due to security threats

The US State Department has warned citizens and non-emergency government staff to leave Yemen “immediately” due to security threats

A security source confirmed Yemeni intelligence services had discovered that tens of al-Qaeda members had arrived in Sanaa over the past few days from other regions in preparation for the implementation of a large plot.

The source described the plot as dangerous, and suggested it was to include explosions and suicide attacks aimed at Western ambassadors and foreign embassies in Yemen, in addition to operations aimed at the Yemeni military headquarters.

Both the White House and the US state department have said the current threat comes from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), but have refused to divulge further details.

According to the New York Times, the US intercepted communications between Ayman al-Zawahiri and the group’s head in Yemen, Nasser al-Wuhayshi.

The paper said the conversation represented one of the most serious plots since the 9/11 attacks.

A number of US diplomatic posts in the region – including in the Yemeni capital Sanaa – will remain closed until Saturday.

Several European countries have also temporarily shut missions in Yemen and the UK Foreign Office is advising against all travel to the country.

A state department global travel alert, issued last week, is also in force until the end of August.

In its latest statement, the department referred to previous attacks on US embassies, including the storming of its compound in September 2012.

Earlier that month mob attacks on the US consulate in Benghazi had left US ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead.

Meanwhile, officials in Yemen released the names of 25 al-Qaeda suspects, saying they had been planning attacks targeting “foreign offices and organizations and Yemeni installations” in the capital of Sanaa and other cities across the country.

AQAP, the Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda, has also been blamed for the foiled Christmas Day 2009 effort to bomb an airliner over Detroit and for explosives-laden parcels that were intercepted the following year aboard cargo flights.

Seven suspected al-Qaeda militants were killed in two US drone air strikes in southern Yemen in June, officials say.

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A global travel alert has been issued by the US state department because of fears of an unspecified al-Qaeda attack.

The department said the potential for an attack was particularly strong in the Middle East and North Africa.

The US intercepted electronic communications between senior al-Qaeda figures, according to officials quoted by the New York Times.

The alert comes shortly after the US announced nearly two dozen embassies and consulates would be shut on Sunday.

The US state department said the alert expires on August 31, 2013, and it recommended US citizens travelling abroad be vigilant.

“Current information suggests that al-Qaeda and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks both in the region and beyond, and that they may focus efforts to conduct attacks in the period between now and the end of August,” the statement said.

The alert warned of “the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure”.

In its report, the New York Times says high-level intercepts were collected and analyzed this week and that the CIA, state department and White House immediately recognized their significance.

President Barack Obama has ordered that “all appropriate steps” be taken to protect Americans in response to a threat of an al-Qaeda attack, AFP news agency quoted a White House official as saying.

A global travel alert has been issued by the US state department because of fears of an unspecified al-Qaeda attack

A global travel alert has been issued by the US state department because of fears of an unspecified al-Qaeda attack

“The president is being updated on a potential threat occurring in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula,” the official added.

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, said that congressional leaders had been briefed about the alert.

“There is some understanding of the seriousness of the threat,” she told reporters.

Republican lawmaker Jason Chaffetz said he understood there was “a very real worldwide threat”.

Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said the threat was not prompted by “the regular chit chat” gleaned from would-be militants online or elsewhere.

“The most important thing we have to do is protect American lives,” he told the Associated Press news agency.

An unnamed senior US official told NBCthe threat may be related to the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which ends next week.

In the Muslim world, Sunday is a work day. In other parts of the world US diplomatic offices are shut on Sunday.

The official said the state department had “been apprised of information” leading it to take these “precautionary steps… out of an abundance of caution”.

Last year on September 11, the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked, leaving four Americans dead.

Other embassies are routinely targets of protesters.

The US diplomatic missions to be closed on Sunday are in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Algiers, Algeria; Amman, Jordan; Baghdad, Iraq; Cairo, Egypt; Dhahran, Saudi Arabia; Djibouti, Djibouti; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Doha, Qatar; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Erbil, Iraq; Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Kabul, Afghanistan; Khartoum, Sudan; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Manama, Bahrain; Muscat, Oman; Nouakchott, Mauritania; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Sanaa, Yemen and Tripoli, Libya.

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The US government has demanded designs for a 3D-printed gun be taken offline.

The order to remove the blueprints for the plastic gun comes after they were downloaded more than 100,000 times.

The US State Department wrote to the gun’s designer, Defense Distributed, suggesting publishing them online may breach arms-control regulations.

Although the files have been removed from the company’s Defcad site, it is not clear whether this will stop people accessing the blueprints.

They were being hosted by the Mega online service and may still reside on its servers.

The US government has demanded designs for a 3D-printed gun be taken offline

The US government has demanded designs for a 3D-printed gun be taken offline

Also, many links to copies of the blueprints have been uploaded to file-sharing site the Pirate Bay, making them widely available. The Pirate Bay has also publicized its links to the files via social news site Reddit suggesting many more people will get hold of the blueprints.

The Office of Defense Trade Controls Compliance wrote to Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson demanding the designs be “removed from public access” until he could prove he had not broken laws governing shipping weapons overseas by putting the files online and letting people outside the US download them.

“We have to comply,” Cody Wilson told Forbes magazine in an interview.

But he added the State Department’s fears were ungrounded, as Defense Distributed had been set up specifically to meet requirements that exempted it from the arms-control regulations.

Cody Wilson welcomed the US government’s intervention, saying it would highlight the issue of whether it was possible to stop the spread of 3D-printed weapons.

Unlike conventional weapons, the printed gun – called the Liberator by its creators – is made out of plastic on a printer. Many engineering firms and manufacturers use these machines to test prototypes before starting large-scale production.

While desktop 3D printers are becoming more popular, Defense Distributed used an industrial 3D printer that cost more than $7,500 to produce its gun. This was able to use high-density plastic that could withstand and channel the explosive force involved in firing a bullet.

To make the Liberator, Cody Wilson had to get a license to make and sell the weapon from the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The Bureau said any American could make a gun for their own use, even on a 3D printer, but selling it required a license.

Cody Wilson, who describes himself as a crypto-anarchist, said the project to create a printed gun and make it widely available was all “about liberty”.

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The US state department has revealed the annual list of gifts received by President Barack Obama from foreign governments in 2011.

Among the gifts from the British Royal Family and UK PM David Cameron to President Barack Obama were a china tea set, an eagle tapestry and a dog toy.

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy gave the Obamas an array of luxury goods valued at $41,676.

Following US custom, the First Family and other US public officials seldom keep gifts from foreign leaders.

They are instead deposited with the US National Archives.

The US state department has revealed the annual list of gifts received by President Barack Obama from foreign governments in 2011

The US state department has revealed the annual list of gifts received by President Barack Obama from foreign governments in 2011

The gifts were reported in an annual filing by the US state department’s protocol office.

Queen Elizabeth II gave Barack Obama a red leather-bound volume entitled A Selection of Papers From the Royal Archives 1834-1897, signed photos of herself to several senior White House aides, and a brooch with gold leaves and coral flowers to First Lady Michelle Obama.

Prince Charles gave the Obamas a 15-piece china tea set.

British PM David Cameron gave the family a large tapestry with an eagle and American flag design by the Rug Company, silver bracelets for daughters Sasha and Malia, and a “bone-shaped chew toy with United Kingdom flag”, presumably for Bo, the family’s four-year-old dog.

The gifts from the Royal Family and David Cameron total about $7,137.

Canadian PM Stephen Harper gave Barack Obama a ball signed by the 2011 Toronto Raptors professional basketball team, as well as a “golden-framed 19th Century antique map of North America, surrounded by drawings of North American Indians, beavers”.

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy presented the Obama family with an array of gifts on several occasions in 2011, among them a glass sculpture of Bucephalus, Alexander the Great’s horse, several Hermes bags, a 200 euro souvenir coin and a reusable grocery tote.

A US state department official was killed and at least one other American was wounded when a gunmen stormed the US consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.

It is believed the protest was held over a US-produced film that is said to be insulting to the Prophet Muhammad.

The militiamen raided the compound with grenades before setting it on fire.

On Tuesday, protesters against the film breached the walls of the US embassy in the Egyptian capital, Cairo.

The film that sparked the demonstration is said to have been produced by a US citizen from California named Sam Bacile, and promoted by an expatriate Egyptian Copt.

The two men are described as having anti-Islamic views.

A trailer of the low-budget movie has appeared on YouTube translated into Arabic.

The video, called Innocence of Muslims, is shot in English, but provides Arabic subtitles.

It was written, directed and produced by Israeli-American real-estate developer Sam Bacile in California, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Sam Bacile, 52, told the paper that he regards Islam as a “cancer” and was able to produce the film with $5 million that he raised with the help of about 100 Jewish donors.

The film depicts Muhammad as a fraud, showing him having sex and calling for massacres.

Throughout the video, “Muhammad” – portrayed by an American actor – is branded a “bastard”, “rapist” and “child molester” by other actors in the film.

A US state department official was killed when a gunmen stormed the US consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi

A US state department official was killed when a gunmen stormed the US consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi

Muslims find it offensive to depict Muhammad in any fashion, much less in an insulting way.

Ultra-conservatives have claimed the actions are a protest against the film, which they say attacks Islam’s prophet, Muhammad, and is a form of blasphemy.

In the attack in Benghazi, unidentified armed men stormed the grounds, shooting at buildings and throwing handmade bombs into the compound.

Security forces returned fire but Libyan officials say they were overwhelmed.

“One American official was killed and another injured in the hand. The other staff members were evacuated and are safe and sound,” Libya’s deputy interior minister Wanis al-Sharif told AFP news agency.

The identity of the US official killed is not yet known. The consular worker was reported to have been shot.

In a statement, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed the death, saying: “We are heartbroken by this terrible loss.”

“Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet,” she said in a statement.

“The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.”

Reports say a militia known as the Ansar al-Sharia brigade was involved in the attack, but the group has denied the claim.

Many people are still armed following the conflict that overthrew Col. Muammar Gaddafi last year.

There were calls on social media networks for protests against US interests in the capital, Tripoli, but no disturbances have been confirmed.

The rally followed a demonstration in Cairo, in which protesters breached the US embassy and tore down the United States flag, which was flying at half mast to mark the 9/11 attacks, and replaced it with an Islamist banner.

Thousands of protesters had gathered outside the US embassy in the Egyptian capital.

Egyptian protesters condemned what they said was the humiliation of the Prophet of Islam under the pretext of freedom of speech.

“Both Muslims and Christians are participating in this protest against this offence to Islam,” said one protester, according to Associated Press news agency.

US Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney criticized President Barack Obama for his response to the protests.

“It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks,” Mitt Romney said in a statement.

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The mystery surrounding Chinese police chief Wang Lijun from Chongqing has deepened after the US government confirmed he visited one of its consulates.

Some are speculating that Wang Lijun was seeking asylum, although the US state department said it could not comment on that issue.

Wang Lijun, 52, gained national recognition after spearheading a crackdown on organized crime in Chongqing.

But he was removed from his post and is now on leave because of “stress”.

One of China’s vice-foreign ministers, Cui Tiankai, said this was an “isolated incident”.

Speaking at a briefing, Cui Tiankai said this issue was “resolved and resolved quite smoothly”, although he did not go into details about exactly what had happened to Wang Lijun.

The incident could have ramifications for Wang Lijun’s boss, Bo Xilai, who appears poised to become one of China’s top national leaders later this year.

Bo Xilai has been one of China’s most high-profile politicians of late, launching a campaign that praised the virtues of the country’s communist past, as well as the crime crackdown.

The mystery surrounding Chinese police chief Wang Lijun from Chongqing has deepened after the US government confirmed he visited one of its consulates

The mystery surrounding Chinese police chief Wang Lijun from Chongqing has deepened after the US government confirmed he visited one of its consulates

There has been speculation for several days about the fate of Wang Lijun following a disturbance outside the US consulate in Chengdu earlier this week.

Chengdu is just a few hours drive from Chongqing, where Wang Lijun is also the deputy mayor.

People reported seeing swarms of police officers, who set up roadblocks outside the consulate.

Posting comments on Chinese micro-blog sites, some said a SUV-style vehicle with a Chongqing number plate was hauled away by the police.

Speaking in Washington, US state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: “Wang Lijun did request a meeting at the US consulate general in Chengdu earlier this week.”

In carefully-worded comments she added: “He did visit the consulate and he later left the consulate of his own volition.”

Victoria Nuland said the state department did not talk about issues related to those seeking refugee status or asylum.

Wang Lijun was removed from his post as head of Chongqing’s police department last week and given other duties.

Then on Wednesday the city government’s news department said on its micro-blog site that he had gone on leave.

“It is understood that Vice-Mayor Wang Lijun, who has suffered overwork and immense mental stress for a long time, is seriously physically indisposed. After agreement, he is currently taking holiday-style medical treatment,” read the tweet.

Wang Lijun headed an attack on organized crime in Chongqing that saw hundreds of people arrested, including the former head of the city’s judicial authorities.

He is a martial arts expert whose crime-fighting exploits once inspired a television series.

The US State Department has declared Livia Acosta Noguera, Venezuela’s consul general in Miami, persona non grata and says she must leave the country by Tuesday.

Livia Acosta Noguera is alleged to have discussed possible cyber-attacks on the US while based at the Venezuelan embassy in Mexico in 2008.

The FBI has been investigating the comments, AP news agency says.

The US state department did not comment on the reason for the expulsion.

Four US members of Congress wrote to the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in December raising concerns about the Venezuelan diplomat.

Their letter says that according to a documentary broadcast on the Spanish-language network Univision last month, Livia Acosta Noguera discussed attacking the US government’s computer systems with diplomats from the Iranian and Cuban embassies and students posing as extremists, while she was vice secretary at Caracas’s embassy in Mexico.

The congressmen requested the state department investigate the claims, and if found true, “declare her a persona non grata and require her immediate departure from the United States”.