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United States, Russia eye April to sign next nuclear treaty

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MOSCOW (AFP) – Russia and the United States will sign a new nuclear disarmament treaty in early April in the Czech capital Prague, Russian daily newspaper Kommersant reported Saturday, citing a diplomatic source.

“The new nuclear disarmament treaty is ready,” said the source, who talk part in Friday’s talks between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the matter.

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“The negotiators in Geneva are just matching up the formulations, given the nuances of Russian and English,” the source added.

Russian and US negotiators have been in intense talks to agree a successor to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) which expired in December but have so far failed to reach a final accord.

US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed last July the new treaty should slash the number of warheads on either side to between 1,500 and 1,675.

Russian media reports have already said country’s two leaders would like to sign the final agreement in an Eastern European capital before the United States hosts a nuclear security summit from April 12-13.

Kommersant’s source was sure that this would happen — and that the treaty would be signed in Prague, as the US side had rejected Kiev as a venue.

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The new treaty also acknowledged a link with the planned US missile defense facilities in Eastern Europe, the source told Kommersant.

The New York Times reported last week that talks had hit a hitch over just this issue. It said Obama was frustrated that Medvedev was linking the disarmament treaty with the dispute over the missile defense system.

On Friday, Clinton said Russia and the United States were “on the brink” of signing a new nuclear disarmament treaty after resolving all outstanding issues.

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Lavrov concurred, saying: “We believe that in the nearest time we can count on the finishing of negotiations on a new agreement.”

The United States currently has some 2,200 nuclear warheads, while Russia is believed to have about 3,000.

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Supreme Court stuns experts with 5-4 ruling in Trump tax case

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The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled against President Donald Trump, granting access to his tax returns.

Unlike all of his predecessors since Richard Nixon in the 1970s, New York real estate mogul Trump refused to release his tax returns, despite promising to do so during his 2016 White House campaign.

Trump made his fortune a key component of that campaign, and his lack of transparency raises questions about his true worth and possible conflicts of interest.

Congressional investigations have raised questions about whether Trump has sensitive financial exposure to Russia, and also whether he has used questionable accounting loopholes to avoid paying taxes in the 1990s and 2000s.

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GOP has all but given up on containment — instead they’re feeding Americans to the ‘coronavirus meatgrinder’: op-ed

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Writing in The Week this Thursday, Ryan Cooper says that as the coronavirus continues to spike across the country, Republicans have essentially abandoned efforts to stem the spread. "Instead they are feeding the American people into the coronavirus meatgrinder," he writes.

GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is focused on protecting companies from liability if they infect their employees or customers, while President Trump threatens to cut off funding from schools that don't open in the fall.

"For months now Republicans have been positing a tradeoff between pandemic containment and the economy, as if we just cancel the lockdowns then everything can go back to normal," Cooper writes. "What they stubbornly refuse to understand is that the virus is the problem. As we are seeing, even in this benighted country a critical mass of people will not go about their normal activities if they are afraid of catching a dangerous disease. Similarly, Sweden did not officially lock down, and as a result it has suffered six-12 times as many deaths as its Scandinavian neighbors — yet its economy took just as bad a hit as theirs. Now that Norway, Denmark, and Finland have contained the virus and are reopening safely but many Swedes are still staying home, the economic damage will be even worse in relative terms."

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Mask-free UFC fighter punches and hurls racial slurs at older man for ‘touching’ him at restaurant

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UFC fighter Mike Perry was seen on video punching an older man for allegedly touching him. Perry, who is white, can also be heard using the N-word multiple times.

According to ESPN, the incident occurred at Table 82 in Lubbock, Texas on Wednesday.

In a video shared on social media, Perry appears irate as he is ushered out of the restaurant.

Austin police officers who arrived on the scene declined to arrest Perry but said that an investigation into the incident is ongoing.

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