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U.S. warns Iran not to block Strait of Hormuz

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The United States warned Iran on Wednesday against any attempt to disrupt shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, after Tehran issued threats over the vital oil route.

“Interference with the transit… of vessels through the Strait of Hormuz will not be tolerated,” said Pentagon press secretary George Little.

Iran’s Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi has threatened to close the strait if the West imposed more sanctions on Iran as the country’s navy held exercises in international waters to the east of the channel.

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Rahimi warned on Tuesday that “not a drop of oil will pass through the Strait of Hormuz” if the West broadened sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.

Amid rising concern over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the United States and the European Union are weighing new sanctions against Tehran’s oil and financial sectors.

“The Iranians conduct exercises on a fairly routine basis in this area. That’s something that we know about,” Little said.

“That being said any effort to raise the temperature on tensions surrounding the Strait of Hormuz is unhelpful,” he said.

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He added there was no sign of Iran taking provocative steps near the channel.

“I’m unaware of any aggressive hostile action directed toward US vessels in the Persian Gulf or the Strait of Hormuz,” or against other ships, Little said.

As Iran carried out its drill, an American aircraft carrier, the USS John Stennis, and a guided-missile cruiser, the USS Mobile Bay, moved through the Strait of Hormuz in “a pre-planned, routine transit” on the way to the Arabian Sea to provide air power for the war in Afghanistan, Little said.

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More than a third of the world’s tanker-borne oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz, linking the Gulf — and its petroleum-exporting states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — to the Indian Ocean.

The United States maintains a major naval presence in the Gulf mainly to ensure the safe passage of oil through the area.

Iran’s navy chief, Admiral Habibollah Sayari, said the exercises east of the strait were designed to show Gulf neighbors the power of Iran’s military over the zone.

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Ships and aircraft dropped mines in the sea Tuesday as part of the drill, and on Wednesday drones flew out over the Indian Ocean, according to the Iranian navy.


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‘Serious harm and suffering’: Jared Kushner’s apartment management company sued for ‘hundreds of thousands of violations’

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An apartment management company owned by Jared Kushner is being sued by Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, who says the company “victimized consumers, many of whom are financially vulnerable” and committed “hundreds of thousands of violations” of consumer protection laws, the Baltimore Sun reports.

The lawsuit was filed this Monday against Westminster Management and alleges that the company utilizes "unfair and deceptive" rental practices in its Baltimore apartment complexes, which were reportedly infested with rats. In a statement, Kushner Cos. CEO Laurent Morali said that the company refuses to be "extorted by an ambitious attorney general who clearly cares more about scoring political points than fighting real crime and improving the lives of the people of Maryland."

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Rudy Giuliani’s henchmen claim executive privilege concerns in first court appearance

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Rudy Giuliani's henchmen appeared in court on campaign finance violations, and they may attempt to claim evidence in the case is protected by executive privilege.

Ukrainian-American businessmen Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were arrested earlier this month on their way out of the country on one-way tickets, pleaded not guilty Wednesday in their first court appearance, according to Courthouse News.

Prosecutors told the court they had issued subpoenas for 50 bank accounts related to the pair.

But an attorney for Parnas told the judge there may be concerns to sort out related to executive privilege due to their relationship with Giuliani, who serves as President Donald Trump's personal attorney.

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‘Looks like the smoking gun’: Meghan McCain less skeptical of impeachment after Bill Taylor testimony

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Meghan McCain gave her strongest indication yet that President Donald Trump was doomed to impeachment, but she was in no mood to talk about it on her birthday.

The conservative host of "The View" turned 35 on Wednesday, a day after former Ukraine ambassador told lawmakers that President Donald Trump had directed efforts to freeze military aid to pressure the foreign ally to investigate political rival Joe Biden.

"This is just killing my vibe," McCain said. "I'm sorry, it's very bad."

"Look, I can't -- I just can't today," McCain said. "I'm so sorry. I would love to stay on this, but it's really bad. It looks like it's highly unethical, and it looks like the smoking gun. That's my political analysis for today. It's my 35th birthday, and I want to move on."

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