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UN arms treaty gives too many ‘loopholes’: NGOs

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The International Red Cross has joined opponents of a draft arms trade treaty out Tuesday that critics said contains only “ambiguities and loopholes.”

Following the release of the first draft, the 193 UN members must now race to agree on a text to regulate the $70 billion a year arms trade by Friday, the deadline set by the UN General Assembly.

Civil society groups condemned the draft text for not including ammunition and allowing too much scope for arms transfers that would escape the treaty.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) rarely speaks out on controversial diplomatic topics as it seeks to preserve its neutrality.

But Peter Herby, head of the ICRC’s arms unit, said: “All the core provisions of this draft treaty still have major loopholes which will simply ratify the status quo, instead of setting a high international standard that will change state practices and save lives on the ground.”

The Red Cross joined Amnesty International, Oxfam and other groups which have launched major campaigns to persuade the major powers to agree a tough, binding treaty.

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It is a text of “ambiguities and loopholes,” commented Roy Isbister of the Saferworld lobby group. Anna Macdonald, arms control expert for Oxfam, likened the text to a “leaky bucket.”

Isbister said the proposed treaty would have little impact on most of the conflicts claiming civilian lives in the world now.

The main arms producers — the United States, Russia, China, Britain, Germany and France — have haggled through three weeks of talks on the scope of the treaty and the criteria for how to judge an arms transfer.

The United States has opposed the inclusion of ammunition, China does not want small arms included, and both Russia and China have sought restrictions on references to humanitarian law.

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Syria, North Korea, Iran, Cuba and Algeria and other countries have sought from the start to thwart the treaty, diplomats and activists say.

The draft treaty does mention ammunition, but Isbister said it was incomprehensible.

“This means if you want to control ammunition, you can control ammunition, if you don’t want to control ammunition there is nothing here to force you. And that is a glaring problem.”

Brian Wood, an expert for Amnesty International, highlighted the vague definition for arms transfers in the draft. It would not cover the substantial amount of arms given as aid or as donations, he said.

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“These loopholes could easily be exploited to allow arms to be supplied to those that intend to use them to commit serious human rights violations, as the world is seeing in Syria,” Wood said.

Britain has been one of the most outspoken of the major arms producers calling for a binding, all-encompassing treaty.

A British diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “The chair has produced a text that we should all be able to work with to get the high ambition result that we need. The next 24 hours will be crucial in narrowing the gaps.”

The treaty must be agreed by consensus so any of the 193 countries involved could object on Friday. And even if a treaty is concluded, the conference has not yet decided how many countries must ratify it to bring it into force.

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Trump biographer mocks president for humiliating foreign policy ‘triple fail’

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Trump biographer Timothy O'Brien on Monday published a column for Bloomberg in which he mocked the president for suffering a humiliating foreign policy "triple fail" that exposed his presidency's biggest weaknesses.

In his column, O'Brien pointed out that Trump's threats of major actions against Mexico and Iran never amounted to anything, while also noting that the president backed off his plans to begin the mass deportations of undocumented immigrants.

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Trump star vandal arrested for Marilyn statue theft in Hollywood

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A man convicted of vandalizing President Donald Trump's sidewalk star in Hollywood last summer has been arrested for stealing a statue of Marilyn Monroe from a nearby monument.

Austin Clay, 25, was identified by police from video surveillance footage.

Having discovered that he was on parole after a conviction for damaging Trump's star on the famous Hollywood "Walk of Fame," investigators searched his home Friday.

According to local media reports, they found evidence linking him to the theft of the statue.

The statue itself -- showing Monroe in her famous flying skirt pose from "The Seven Year Itch" (1955) -- has not been found.

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How the New York Times creates credibility for Trump

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There’s a good reason why the Times decided against running on its front page news of the latest woman to accuse the president of rape. The Times still does journalism the way it always has. It gives people in power the never-ending benefit of the doubt.

When you are willing to give people in power the benefit of the doubt no matter how many times they have proven they are unworthy of that benefit, it’s not all that important when the 16th person comes forward credibly to accuse Donald Trump of anything, even if, in the case of columnist E. Jean Carroll, the allegation is rape.

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