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Missile contracts surge as US exits arms treaty: study

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Washington has signed more than $1 billion in new missile contracts in the three months since it announced plans to withdraw from a key Cold War-era arms treaty, campaigners said Thursday.

“The withdrawal from the INF Treaty has fired the starting pistol on a new Cold War,” warned Beatrice Fihn, who heads the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

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US President Donald Trump announced last October that his country would leave the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) agreement concluded between the US and the former Soviet Union in 1987.

Washington, which accused Russia of violating the treaty through a new missile system, began the official process of withdrawing from the pact in February.

Russian President Vladimir Putin responded by saying Moscow would also leave the INF treaty, which is considered the cornerstone of global arms control.

In the three months following the October announcement, the US government “proceeded to arrange no less than $1 billion in new missile contracts”, according to a report by ICAN and another anti-nuclear campaign group, PAX.

The report detailed over $1.1 billion in new contracts with six mainly US companies.

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US defence contractor Raytheon saw the biggest windfall, tallying 44 new contracts worth some $537 million.

Lockheed Martin meanwhile scooped up 36 new contracts, worth $268 million, while Boeing grabbed four new contracts totalling $245 million, the report found.

– ‘Congress should investigate’ –

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“Congress should investigate the lobbying roles of Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon who took the lion’s share of these contracts,” Fihn said in a statement.

The report authors acknowledged that it was unclear if all of the new contracts awarded between October 22, 2018 and January 21, 2019 were for new nuclear weapon production.

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“What is clear is that there is a new rush towards building more missiles that benefit a handful of US companies and intend to flood the market with missiles regardless of their range,” they said.

At a global level, the report found that governments are currently contracting at least $116 billion (102 billion euros) to private companies in France, India, Italy, the Netherlands, Britain and the US for the production, development and stockpiling of nuclear weapons.

At the same time, it stressed that the private sector involvement in the arsenals of China, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and Russia remain largely hidden, with little insight into how much is being contracted and which companies are getting the deals.

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Many of the outstanding contracts identified in the report were granted around 2015 and are set to expire in 2020, but some of the contracts have far longer time frames.

For example, one contract for a key component necessary to launch US Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles runs until at least 2075, the report showed.

“President Trump is heralding the need for global denuclearisation, but US deeds, and those of nuclear-armed allies do not match those words,” said Susi Snyder, PAX nuclear disarmament programme manager and the lead author of the report.

“We see the US and other states planning for a nuclear-armed century, with contracts to maintain weapons through at least 2075, despite growing domestic and global calls to reverse course,” she lamented.

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Giuliani henchmen showered Republican with cash — and Trump almost made him ambassador to Ukraine: report

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Yet another bombshell report has shed new light on President Donald Trump's suspicious Ukraine policies.

"At the same time that Rudy Giuliani and his now-indicted pals were pushing for President Donald Trump to remove Amb. Marie Yovanovitch from her post in Ukraine, Trump administration officials were eyeing potential contenders to take over her job. One of the people in the mix, according to three sources familiar with the discussions, was Rep. Pete Sessions, a former Congressman who called for Yovanovitch’s firing," The Daily Beast reported Thursday night. "He is also a longtime ally of the former New York Mayor, and is believed to have taken millions of dollars from Giuliani’s indicted cronies."

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Taylor Swift takes on former record label — and #IStandWithTaylor trends on Twitter

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Taylor Swift on Thursday publicly reignited her battle with the heads of her former label, saying it is threatening to bar her from going through with an upcoming performance and Netflix documentary over her plans to re-record her early albums.

Earlier this year the superstar began feuding with industry mogul Scooter Braun over his purchase of her former label for more than a decade, the Nashville-based Big Machine, which gave him a majority stake in the master recordings of her first six albums.

Swift said she would begin re-recording her early albums to create copies she owns herself, saying her contract allows her to begin re-doing albums one through five in November 2020, when she plans to be back in the studio doing just that.

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Israel launches air and missile strikes in the Gaza Strip despite ceasefire

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Israel launched fresh strikes against Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza, the army said early Friday, weakening a ceasefire put in place after fighting this week killed 34 Palestinians in exchanges of fire.

The ceasefire began Thursday morning following two days of deadly violence in the Gaza Strip triggered by an Israeli strike on an Islamic Jihad commander.

But Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said in a WhatsApp message to reporters that new overnight strikes were under way on Islamic Jihad, the second most powerful Palestinian militant group in Gaza after Hamas.

"The IDF is currently striking Islamic Jihad terror targets in the Gaza Strip," it said.

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