Israel on Thursday released footage of warplanes testing their ability to fly long distances — just days before Iran plans to hold talks with other nations over its contested nuclear activities, which have prompted Israeli threats of attack.
The Israeli air force “plays a central role in carrying out Israel’s military option if necessary,” the Israeli Defense Forces said in released comments, which contain no specific reference to Iran. Tehran is scheduled next Tuesday and Wednesday to meet with counterparts from six major governments over concerns that its civilian atomic efforts in reality are directed toward developing a nuclear-weapon capability.
“No deal is better than a bad deal,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Financial Times on Thursday, referring to the Iranian negotiations that his nation will be monitoring closely. “A bad deal would be a partial agreement which lifts sanctions off Iran and leaves them with the ability to enrich uranium or to continue work on their heavy-water plutonium, which is what is needed to produce nuclear weapons.”
In Washington, meanwhile, 15 House Foreign Affairs Committee members on Thursday sent the Obama administration a letter urging it to reinstate U.S. Treasury Department sanctions personnel furloughed during the federal-government shutdown.
“For maximum U.S. leverage, the sanctions pressure must be kept on Iran especially as [President] Hassan Rouhani attempts to present Iran’s government in a new light,” according to comments released by panel chairman Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), who co-authored the letter with ranking member Ted Poe (R-Texas).
In the international arena, the United States on Thursday protested an Iranian bid for a leadership role on the U.N. Disarmament Commission, Reuters reported.
Iran’s appointment several days ago as “rapporteur” of the U.N. First Committee — another arms-control body — prompted a critical response from Israel.
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At the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump announced his support for allowing teachers to carry concealed firearms at schools. "Why do we protect our airports, our banks, our government buildings, but not our schools?" Trump asked the audience. "It's time to make our schools a much harder target ...When we declare our schools to be gun free zones, it just puts our students in far more danger." Trump said that roughly "10 or 20 percent" of teachers were very adept with guns, and that "a teacher would have shot the hell out of him [the shooter] before he knew what happened. They love their students, folks, remember that."
Former Trump campaign adviser Rick Gates is expected to plead guilty to a raft of new tax and fraud charges filed against him by special counsel Robert Mueller on Thursday. Gates is expected to cooperate with Mueller's investigation.
Documents from a federal corruption investigation into the "underbelly of college basketball" detail an extensive recruiting operation implicating at least 20 Division I basketball programs, including Duke, North Carolina, Texas, Kentucky, Michigan State, USC, and Alabama. "The documents ... link some of the sport’s biggest current stars to specific potential extra benefits for either the athletes or their family members. The amounts tied to players in the case range from basic meals to tens of thousands of dollars." NCAA president Mark Emmert said the allegations, if true, "point to systematic failures that must be fixed and fixed now if we want college sports in America."
Donald Trump is expected to announce a new round of sanctions against North Korea during his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, later this morning. The Treasury Department "will get into the details later in the day," although a senior administration official called the new penalties "'the largest package of new sanctions against the North Korea regime.'" Pence blasted North Korea in his speech to CPAC, calling Kim Jong Un's sister Kim Jo Yong, who reportedly pulled out of a meeting with him at the Olympics, “a central pillar of the most tyrannical and oppressive regime on the planet.”