Briefing :- 15/6/17

Here’s CurrentHow’s Briefing™ for the 15th of June, 2017 :-

1. 7 dead, 59 injured as blast rocks kindergarten in China :-

An explosion at a kindergarten in eastern China on Thursday killed at least seven people and injured 59 others, state media said.

The blast occurred near the nursery, according to the Fengxian county government in Jiangsu province.

China Central Television said two people were killed at the site of the explosion, and five died in hospital. Nine of the injured are in a serious condition.

A photo posted by Chinese media online shows several women and children sitting or lying on the ground, some bleeding. One woman is clutching her child, who is in tears.

The blast occurred at the gate of the kindergarten as children were leaving the school in the afternoon, according to the Xinhua new agency, citing the emergency office of Xuzhou city.

An official at the police station in Fengxian county in Jiangsu province told AFP that the cause of the explosion was under investigation.

“There were some children injured,” the official said. The images circulating online showed more than a dozen people outside a building, many lying on the concrete and some appearing to be unconscious, including a small child.

The force of the blast tore the clothes off some people.

It is the latest tragedy to strike a kindergarten in China in recent weeks.

A school bus packed with kindergarten pupils erupted in flames inside a tunnel in eastern Shandong province on May 9, killing 11 children, a teacher and the driver. Officials later said the fire was intentionally set by the driver, who was angry at losing overtime wages.

2. US to sell F-15 fighters to Qatar in deal worth $12 billion :-

US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and his Qatari counterpart Khalid al-Attiyah signed a letter of agreement Wednesday for a $12-billion sale of US-manufactured F-15 fighters, the Pentagon said.

The sale comes amid a simmering crisis in the Gulf after Qatar’s neighbours accused it of supporting terrorism and cut diplomatic ties.

US President Donald Trump has signalled his support for the Saudi-led move but other US officials have been more cautious and called for dialogue to end the crisis.

“The $12-billion sale will give Qatar a state-of-the-art capability and increase security cooperation and interoperability between the United States and Qatar,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

Mattis and al-Attiyah also discussed mutual security concerns, including the Islamic State group and “the importance of de-escalating tensions so all partners in the Gulf region can focus on next steps in meeting common goals.”

The Pentagon did not provide additional details on the sale but Bloomberg reported it could include as many as 36 warplanes.

The State Department last year had said it had authorised the sale of 72 F-15 Strike Eagle jets to Qatar. That deal was worth an estimated value of $21 billion.

In November, the United States had approved possible sale of up to 72 F-15QA aircraft to Qatar for $21.1 billion. Boeing is the prime contractor on the fighter jet sale to the Middle East nation.

3. Australian PM mocks Trump over ‘Russian guy’ as off-the-record media party :-

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has made fun of US President Donald Trump and alluded to his ties with Russia, according to a leaked tape of an off-the-record media event. Reuters reports that PM Turnbull, who had a frosty first telephone call with the US president early this year, was recorded mimicking Trump at a media ball at Parliament House in Canberra late on Wednesday, which was strictly off the record.

“The Donald and I…we are winning in the polls. We are! Not the fake polls. We are winning in the real polls. You know, the online polls. They are so easy to win,” Turnbull said in the leaked recording, adding: “I have this Russian guy…”

An Australian journalist later broadcast the recording saying because he had not been at the event, he was not bound by the confidentiality rule.

Turnbull later told the 3AW radio station he was disappointed by the leak, which he said was a breach of protocol.

He said his “affectionately light-hearted” speech was a “good humoured roast” in which he was the butt of his own jokes.

The US embassy in Canberra said it understood that the Mid-Winter Ball was the equivalent of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, an annual Washington event at which the media and president traditionally rib each other. “We take this with the good humour that was intended,” the embassy said.

Turnbull was one of the first foreign leaders Trump spoke to after he took office on January 20. During their telephone call, the president became irritated about an agreement made by his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, to accept as many as 1,250 refugees held in Australian processing centres on remote Pacific islands.

In return, Australia would resettle refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Trump broke off what was supposed to be an hour-long call after 25 minutes and later tweeted that the refugee agreement was “dumb”.

Vice President Mike Pence visited Australia in April and made clear that while Trump was not happy about the refugee agreement, the United States would honour it.

The two leaders were all smiles during their first face to face meeting in New York last month, when they declared that they “get along great”.

4. US President Donald Trump under investigation for obstruction of justice: Washington Post :- 

US President Donald Trump is under formal investigation for potential obstruction of justice by the special counsel looking into Russia’s interverence in the 2016 US election, the Washington Post reports, citing officials.

This marks a dramatic turn by Robert S Mueller III in the investigation, now almost a year old. Until now the focus was on Russian interference in the election, and also in whether any of Trump’s associates are guilty of financial crimes.

James Comey, the former FBI Director overseeing the Russia probe until Trump abruptly fired him, had told President Trump that he himself was not under investigation. But that was in January. After Comey was fired, that changed.

The White House made no official response, and now all Russia-related questions are being handled by Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz. “The FBI leak regarding the president is outrageous, inexcuseable and illegal,” said a representative for Kasowitz.

Investigators are said to be looking for any of Trump’s statements, public and private, concerning why Comey was fired.

Comey himself testified, “It is my judgement that I was fired because of the Russia investigation”.

“I was fired, in some way to change — or the endeavour was to change the way the Russia investigation was being conducted.”

Comey testified that he was asked for ‘loyalty’ from the president. Instead, Comey responded that he would give the president ‘honest loyalty’.

Shortly after the Comey firing, Trump invited Russian officials to the White House and told them firing “nut job” comey took pressure off the Russia investigation. He told them he was not under investigation.

After Comey’s testimony, in which Comey said the president himself was not under investigation, Trump claimed he felt “total and complete vindication”. It is not known whether or not Comey’s successor had informed Trump of the change in the probe.

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