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US defense chief urges Iran to hold talks with US

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US Defense Secretary Mark Esper urged Iran Wednesday to enter discussions with the United States in order to ease tensions in the Gulf region.

“We are not seeking conflict with Iran. We want to engage with them diplomatically,” Esper said in his first formal press conference after being confirmed last month.

“The president said once again he is willing to meet with Iran’s leaders,” he said.

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“We hope that the Iranians would agree to meet and talk and help us resolve these issues.”

At the G7 meeting in Biarritz, France on Monday, Trump, whose government has aggressively sought to pressure Tehran, showed openness to French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal of a summit with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani.

“If the circumstances were correct, I would certainly agree to that,” Trump said at a joint press conference with Macron.

That could be the ice-breaker needed to end more than two years of heightened hostilities between the two countries.

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Breaking with his predecessor Barack Obama, Trump enacted a policy of “maximum pressure” on Tehran over its disputed nuclear program and last year unilaterally withdrew from the landmark 2015 international deal that placed limits on Tehran’s nuclear activities.

Tensions over that move have gradually risen, with Iran seizing tankers in the Gulf in recent months and Britain detaining an Iranian tanker off of Gibraltar.

In the wake of that, the US launched its “Operation Sentinel,” a naval operation to protect commercial shipping in the Gulf.

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“I am pleased to report that Operation Sentinel is up and running, with the UK, Australia and Bahrain joining us in this effort,” Esper said.

He said other countries would likely soon join, and that the operation had helped calm the region.

“Between our presence and the presence of our allies and partners in the region, I think so far, further bad, provocative behavior has been deterred,” Esper said.

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“We want to talk to Iran, and talk about a diplomatic path forward,” he said, adding: “I’m not sure I’m ready to call the crisis over yet. So far, so good.”


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Three judges suspended for drunken 3 AM fight at White Castle — that ended with two shot

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Three judges were suspended after engaging in a drunken shooting outside a White Castle.

"Three Indiana judges involved in a Downtown Indianapolis fight in May that ended with two of the judges shot have been suspended without pay after the Indiana Supreme Court determined they committed judicial misconduct," the Indianapolis Star reports. "In an opinion issued Tuesday, the court said judges Bradley Jacobs, Andrew Adams and Sabrina Bell 'engaged in judicial misconduct by appearing in public in an intoxicated state and behaving in an injudicious manner and by becoming involved in a verbal altercation.'"

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What Zelensky knew: The devastating and darkly ironic impact of Trump’s attempt to bribe Ukraine

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In their effort to exculpate President Donald Trump in the impeachment inquiry, Republicans put Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s denial that he ever felt pressure from the White House to open up investigations into Democrats at the center of their argument. A new GOP memo says that both leaders have acknowledged “there was no pressure” on the famous July 25 call that sparked the inquiry and thus argues that the allegations made by Democrats that Trump abused his power don’t hold.

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Greta Thunberg says ‘people must finally wake up’ to the fact Trump is ‘so extreme’ on climate change

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Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg said Tuesday that US President Donald Trump's climate change denialism was "so extreme" that it had helped galvanize the movement to halt long term planetary warming.

She spoke in an interview with AFP on the eve of her departure from North America where she has spent almost three months.

"He's so extreme and he says so extreme things, so I think people wake up by that in a way," the 16-year-old said from on board a sailboat preparing to depart from the East Coast town of Hampton, Virginia for Europe early Wednesday.

"I thought when he got elected, now people will finally, now people must finally wake up," she continued.

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