‘Twitter ban of RT ads part of coordinated attack on Russian media & freedom of speech’

By ethan / October 27, 2017

Twitter’s decision to ban RT’s advertising is based on a discredited intelligence report and comes just as the public is losing interest in the crumbling Trump-Russia collusion case, experts interviewed by RT believe.

Twitter has banned ads from RT and Sputnik, citing their alleged meddling in the 2016 US election, despite the fact that the company itself approached RT offering to spend millions more on the channel’s promotional campaign. The ban comes just days before Twitter executives and other social media representatives are due to appear before Congress to testify about the alleged Russian interference in last year’s US election.

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Twitter used the US intelligence community report, which is extremely vague and outdated, to justify their actions. The ODNI report, the unclassified version of which was published in January, devoted seven pages to RT and its alleged influence on the election “by serving as a platform for Kremlin messaging to Russian and international audiences.” No hard evidence has been provided, however.

“Twitter has decided to take action based on this old and discredited report just at the time that the so-called Steele dossier, the so-called Russia dossier, that people have been attempting to use to blacken the Trump administration… [it] turns out that the Steele dossier was paid for by Hillary Clinton,” former US diplomat Ted Seay told RT.

“And what it says to me is that Twitter knows is that dossier is vanishing into smoke, into thin air, and that the intelligence community report which sort of goes hand-in-hand with that dossier will be useless for them to use in the future so they are using it right now,” Seay explained.

Most of the experts RT spoke with also agreed that Twitter was most likely pressured by the American elite into banning RT from advertising.

“We know that not only Twitter, but Facebook, Google, Microsoft and other companies have been working closely with the NSA and other agencies on their various surveillance programs. And they get paid for their participation in these programs and they are probably looking at the other side of the ledger to say we need to stay on good terms with the people who make the policy, make the laws, call the shots, and show that we are in sync with this game about this Russian interference,” Jim Jatras, another former US diplomat, told RT.

“It is not even so much RT but what does this say about what the American government, the American agencies and now these social media companies are willing to do to compromise information coming to the American people?” he asked.

Mark Almond, director of the Crisis Research Institute at Oxford meanwhile said Twitter made their decision out of fear, a choice that will now have consequences for American politicians who, with their pressure on the social media company, have impugned the intellect of the American electorate.

READ MORE: RT stars in ODNI report on ‘Russian activities and intentions’ in US presidential election

“Those politicians in the Congress who have the social media platforms like Twitter and Google and Facebook a little bit in fear of them… are actually also damaging their own political standing because essentially they are saying to the American voter that you’re so gullible and foolish that a tiny amount of money targeted in some way can control your minds and turn your votes,” Almond told RT.

Professor of Journalism at Georgetown University Christopher Chambers told the channel that Twitter was not able to withstand pressure from the American government.

“These web platforms have been created by wunderkinds who are not used to this kind of pressure, this kind of governmental scrutiny… and this is threatening their business models,” Chambers noted.

The Georgetown University professor stressed that by blacklisting RT, Twitter has jeopardized the image of American media outlets in the rest of the world. Russia, for instance, already said that it would retaliate against Twitter’s decision.

“By taking this preemptive, unprecedented step they have now sent a message out to other media outlets in the United States… and have now exposed those same American outlets to a negative treatment in other nations,” Chambers said.

Furthermore, as RT’s experts have pointed out, the ban came into effect just as the American public started questioning the controversial dossier – which was recently revealed to have been paid for by the Democratic Party to accuse Donald Trump’s administration of alleged collusion with Moscow.

“This is a deliberate move to get everybody off what is happening right now to the Hillary Clinton FBI investigation and move it back to what everybody loves – RT and Russia,” media analyst Lionel told RT.

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© Dado Ruvic

“There is a lot of talk of Russians and dossiers but purchased by her, and her lawyer and DNC. And a lot of people and a lot of folks are saying, ‘wait a minute, where did this dossier come from?’”

“And the heat was being turned up, and being turned up on the FBI, with Mr. Muller, Mr. Comey… and did they perhaps conspire to, dare I say, change and affect the election, glued together by virtue of this new investigation? Well, when that heats up too much what do you do? You step on the brakes and you move over to RT – everybody’s favorite.”

Twitter played to the tune of the massive anti-Russian hysteria in the US to divert the American public from “thinking,” Lionel believes.

“That is a great move for the freedom of speech. Way to go, Twitter! It is disgusting,” said Lionel, joining the consensus of RT interviewees saying that Twitter’s move was just a link in a “coordinated attack” against Russian media outlets.

“It is a coordinated attack on Russian outlets, this is a coordinated attack on the freedom of speech and on the media, and it is a coordinated attack on the right of the American people to get independent sources of information and to make their own critical comparison,” Jatras noted.

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Two women & their dogs saved after months at sea by US Navy (VIDEO)

By ethan / October 27, 2017

Two women mariners and their dogs were rescued at sea by the USS Ashland following an outing this past Spring. The two were brought to safety after weeks of sending out distress signals from their boat.

Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiaba were rescued by the US Navy vessel Wednesday morning. The women embarked on their journey from Hawaii to Tahiti in French Polynesia this past Spring. However, their sailboat strayed from its planned course on May 30, when the boat suffered an engine casualty, according to a US Navy press release.

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The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) © Tyler Preston / Navy Office of Information

Two months into their ordeal, the women began to send distress calls and continued the action each day since. The Navy claimed in a press release that the strayed boat was not close enough to the shore, or other ships, for their signals to be heard.

Appel said the two survived by having water purifiers and over a year’s worth of food on board with them. The food primarily consisted of dry goods, such as oatmeal, pasta and rice.

Appel and Fuiaba were initially discovered 900 miles southeast of Japan by a Taiwanese fishing vessel. That vessel contacted the Coast Guard Sector in Guam, who went on to coordinate with the Taipei Rescue Coordination Center, the Japan Coordination Center and the Joint Coordination Center in Honolulu.

The USS Ashland was already operating in the area when they discovered the vessel with the two women aboard.

When the two were brought onboard the Navy vessel, they were given medical treatment and food. The pair will remain on the Navy ship until the USS Ashland’s next port of call.

READ MORE: US, South Korea begin naval drills off Korean Peninsula

“I’m grateful for their service to our country. They saved our lives. The pride and smiles we had when we saw [U.S. Navy] on the horizon was pure relief,” Appel said, according to the press release.

USS Ashland Commanding Officer Steven Wasson said, “The U.S. Navy is postured to assist any distressed mariner of any nationality during any type of situation.”

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‘Still single? Don’t call me mom!’ IKEA dumps China ad offending singles

By ethan / October 27, 2017

Furniture giant IKEA has been forced to remove its commercial from Chinese TV after it’s ‘message’ triggered a storm of condemnation on social media. The ad, critics said, ridicules single women as it features a mother who threatens to reject her daughter for not having a boyfriend.

“The TV ad has been withdrawn from all channels by IKEA China,” the company’s spokeswoman in China told Reuters.

The Swedish retailer attracted negative headlines after internet users descended on its half-minute clip, broadcast in China. The piece starts with a family dinner with parents seeming rather dissatisfied. The mother then strictly announces: “If you cannot bring back a boyfriend, don’t call me Mum!”

However, tensions subside when the doorbell rings and the daughter greets a man holding flowers. As she introduces the guest as her boyfriend, the parents quickly change their attitude and start to dress up the living room with IKEA items. While the parents and the boyfriend enjoy dinner, the daughter is taken aback by the sudden transformation. It concludes with the caption, “celebrate everyday’s life.”

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© Fahad Shadeed

“Is the ad trying to tell us single women are not welcome at home and can’t use IKEA products to celebrate moments in everyday life? This is clearly sexist, I am disappointed,” one commented on the Sino Weibo microblogging website.

“I just want to ask IKEA would they dare to show such an advert in their home country, Sweden?” SCMP quoted another user.

“Whether having a romantic partner or not is one’s own business and does not need any interference from others, let alone an advertisement,” said Ba Ge Zhuan Yong, a Weibo user with more than six million followers.

Others believed that with such an ad, the company was encouraging and forcing single women into getting married, according to the Global Times.

On Tuesday, IKEA released a statement, apologizing for “giving the wrong perception” following the avalanche of criticism for stigmatizing so-called “leftover women,” a derogatory term widely used in China to describe women remaining unmarried in their late 20s.

“IKEA encourages people to live different lifestyles, and this belief is reflected in our product design and home furnishing solutions. Gender equality is a fundamental part of the IKEA culture and values, which we share with everybody,” says the statement, which, however, hasn’t appeased everybody.

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FBI & CIA left Trump ‘no choice’ but to delay long-awaited JFK assassination docs

By ethan / October 27, 2017

Some of the highly anticipated secret documents containing details of the John F. Kennedy assassination have been released by the National Archives, more than a half-century since the US president was fatally shot in Dallas, Texas.

The 25-year deadline was set for Thursday, October 26, and while many of the documents were released, the entire trove was not made available by President Donald Trump.

Trump said late Thursday that he had “no choice” but to accept the concerns of intelligence agencies, such as the FBI and CIA, according to the Associated Press.

At the request of the CIA and FBI, Trump has delayed some of the JFK files from being fully declassified for at least another six months, the AP reported.

The 2,800 documents Trump approved for release are available to search on the National Archives website

The only person with the power to prevent the release of the documents was Trump, who announced last week that the release would go ahead unimpeded.

The circumstances of JFK’s death have fuelled conspiracy theories for years, with many believing shooter Lee Harvey Oswald did not actually kill the president, while others are convinced that the investigation into his murder was impeded by a cover-up orchestrated by intelligence agencies.

In 1992, then-President George Bush Snr. passed a law ordering all remaining records relating to the assassination to be transferred to the National Archives. The John F Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act provided for the publication of all remaining documents within 25 years, allowing “the public to become fully informed about the history surrounding the assassination.”

The 25-year deadline is Thursday, October 26, 2017.

READ MORE: JFK assassination: What was Lee Harvey Oswald doing in the USSR?

READ MORE: Trump to allow release of classified JFK assassination files 

The first batch of the documents was released in July, consisting of 400 records that had been fully withheld, and 3,400 that had been partially redacted when they were previously released.

Researchers found it difficult to sift through the documents, however, as many are encoded and in foreign languages, while others are duplicates, making determining what is new information a challenge.

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Ukrainian president quietly deletes tweet & FB post wrongfully featuring Holocaust image

By ethan / October 27, 2017

Petro Poroshenko has tacitly erased his Twitter and Facebook posts about the Soviet deportation of Ukrainians to Siberia, which he illustrated with a photo showing Polish Jews being escorted to a Nazi death camp. The fake content had been online for nearly a week.

Last Friday, the Ukrainian leader took to social media to remind his followers of the 70th anniversary of the USSR’s forced evacuation of the population of Western Ukraine regions to Siberia in 1947. The choice of the cover image, however, landed Poroshenko in hot water – it was a photograph taken five years before the Soviet deportations and showing the Jewish ghetto of Lodz in Poland.

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© Screenshoot from Twitter @poroshenko

Social media users pointed out the ‘blunder,’ revealing that people in the picture were in fact Jews about to be deported to a Nazi extermination camp in 1942.

“Elderly women carrying young children and bundles of personal belongings trudge along a street in the Lodz ghetto toward the assembly point for deportations to Chelmno,” the caption of the photo says on the website of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Poroshenko’s gaffe provoked a storm of dismay online, with users deriding the “ignorance” of the president’s team. Eduard Dolinsky, head of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, described Poroshenko’s tweet as “strange.”

While the tweet and the Facebook post with the wrong picture had been online for almost a week, no comment was forwarded by the president’s office upon its removal.

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Dozens of Russian defense companies included in list of potential new US sanction targets

By ethan / October 27, 2017

The US is edging towards the eventual implementation of a new round of sanctions against Russia after the State Department provided Congress with a list of Russian defense and intelligence entities, missing the deadline by almost a month.

“Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has authorized the department to issue guidance to the public specifying the persons or entities that are part of or operating on behalf of the defense or intelligence sectors of the government of the Russian Federation,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said. “What that means is that Secretary Tillerson has signed off on this and it is now being held on Capitol Hill.”

The State Department is “currently informing Congress, key US industries stakeholders and our allies and partners” of the directive, she added.

The list includes over thirty Russian defense sector entities, starting with the state-owned Russian Technologies State Corporation, Rostec. The titan of Russia’s civil and military production, Rostec incorporates roughly 700 entities which form 14 holding companies which manufacture anything from AvtoVAZ cars to Kamaz trucks.

Germany’s Steinmeier: Relations with Russia too important, countries must find bond

Rostec also controls Rosoboronexport, the sole Russian state intermediary agency responsible for the import and export of defense arms which is also on the list. Some of the other companies working with Rostec, such as the world-famous AK-47 producer Kalashnikov Concern JSC, is a potential target as well.

US sanctions bill vs Russia built on fraudster’s political lobbying – Russian lawyer Veselnitskaya

One of the oldest and largest shipyards in Russia, Admiralty Shipyard, is also a possible target. The company, located in St. Petersburg, primarily deals with submarines design, development, and construction.Dolgoprudny Research Production JSC which manufactures products such as anti-aircraft missiles, launchers and rockets has also been added to the list.

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© Jonathan Ernst

Mytishchinski Mashinostroitelny Zavod which handles naval, aircraft, anti aircraft, tank, coast and field artillery products also shared the same fate.
Russian aviation industry leaders Sukhoi Aviation, Tupolev JSC and United Aircraft Corporation were also singled out by the State Department.

New targets of US sanctions also include six entities working in the Russian intelligence sphere. The Federal Security Service (FSB), Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces (GRU) are the agencies that stand out from the list.

The State Department’s move forms part of the implementation of the ‘Countering Russian Influence in Europe and Eurasia Act of 2017.’ The legislation was passed by the Senate on July 27 and ushered in new sanctions against Russia, Iran, and North Korea.
In early August, President Donald Trump signed the act into a law, promising to provide a list of individuals and organizations that should be added to the sanctions list by October 1.

The State Department, however, failed to compile their list on time, pushing back the deadline by almost a month.

READ MORE: Trump signs Russia sanctions bill despite ‘clearly unconstitutional’ provisions

“It took a little bit of time,” Nauert told reporters. “The secretary himself said that these are complex matters and we want to get it right.”

The holdup was explained earlier Wednesday by the White House as a result of an “interagency review.”

One of the authors of the massive sanctions bill, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), has welcomed the State Department’s recommendations.

“The guidance provided today by the State Department is a good first step in responsibly implementing a very complex piece of legislation, and I appreciate Secretary Tillerson’s attention to this important issue,” Corker said in a statement obtained by The Daily Beast.

“Congress will expect thorough and timely consultation until full implementation is complete,” the senator added.

Trump was very reluctant to sign the ‘Countering American Adversaries Through Sanctions Act’ in August, saying it is “seriously flawed” and had “clearly unconstitutional provisions” that limited presidential powers.

“By limiting the Executive’s flexibility, this bill makes it harder for the United States to strike good deals for the American people, and will drive China, Russia, North Korea much closer together,” Trump stated at the time.

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Poll shows more than half of Americans against making players stand for anthem

By ethan / October 27, 2017

More than half of Americans (51 percent) think professional athletes should not be forced to stand when the national anthem is played, while 47 percent believe they should, according to a poll.

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© Global Look Press

The poll, conducted by Marist Poll, suggested public opinion has shifted slightly since September 2016 when a similar poll indicated 52 percent said players should stand against 47 percent who believed they shouldn’t.

Protests such as the ‘take a knee’ movement have swept US sports leagues, beginning last season in the NFL when then San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, kneeled during the national anthem in protest at what he perceived as racial injustice in the US.

The movement, which has gained considerable momentum since then, has continued in Kaepernick’s absence from the NFL, as the player still remains unemployed after opting out of his contract with the 49ers in March.

The poll indicated 76 percent of African Americans believed sports leagues, including the NFL, should not oblige their players to stand for the Star-Spangled Banner, compared with 48 percent last year, while 54 percent of white respondents believe athletes should rise when the anthem is played.

US President Donald Trump called on the NFL to fire players who “disrespect the flag” by taking part in kneeling protests.

Then in October, Trump condemned NFL bosses following the league’s decision not to force its players to stand for the national anthem.

But the poll indicates Trump’s words haven’t garnered widespread support as 68 percent of Americans deemed the president’s criticism of the NFL as wrong, and only 28 percent supported his calls to take action against protesting players.

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US govt expands warrantless surveillance of Americans

By ethan / October 27, 2017

The expanded powers relate back Executive Order 12333, signed by former President Ronald Reagan in 1981, and modified under the George W. Bush administration. It establishes how US intelligence agencies such as the CIA are allowed to pursue foreign intelligence investigations. The order also allows surveillance of US citizens in certain cases, including for activities defined as counterintelligence.

Previously the DoD’s manual said the US government had to show a target was working on behalf of the goals of a foreign power or terrorist group. The practical effect of the expanded definition on how the US government gathers intelligence is not clear. Surveillance experts worry the increased monitoring lacks sufficient oversight.

“What happens under 12333 takes place under a cloak of darkness,” Sarah St. Vincent, a surveillance researcher at HRW, told Reuters. “We have enormous programs potentially affecting people in the United States and abroad, and we would never know about these changes,” without the documents.

Among the slides is a list of shooting attacks, examples being San Bernardino, California in December 2015 and Orlando, Florida in June 2016, that would fall under the “homegrown violent extremist” category.

The shooters had declared allegiance to the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) shortly before or during the attacks, but investigators found no actual links to the terrorist organization that has carried out shootings and bombings of civilians around the world.

Military counterintelligence agencies are also allowed to investigate both active duty and US civilian personnel as long as there is a potential case connected to the military, DoD senior intelligence oversight official Michael Mahra told Reuters.

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 The National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters building in Fort Meade, Maryland © Reuters

The disclosure comes as US intelligence officials are pushing to renew the controversial spying program allowing agencies to conduct bulk surveillance on internet users.

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act gives US intelligence agencies permission to spy on and store internet data and communications of foreign people living outside the US. The George W. Bush-era legislation’s authorization is set to expire on December 31, if Congress does not renew it. The Senate Intelligence Committee is expected to privately vote on a bill to reauthorize the law this week, despite requests for a public debate.

While that is underway, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced the first legislative proposal to restrict law enforcement’s access to data collected by the National Security Agency’s (NSA) warrantless internet surveillance program.

The Republican and Democratic leaders on the House Judiciary Committee unveiled the “USA Liberty Act” Wednesday. The legislation would renew Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which authorizes the collection, use, and dissemination of electronic communications and metadata.

A discussion draft of the bill, obtained by the Cato Institute, adds some restraints on law enforcement’s ability to access Americans’ data. The bill would also extend the surveillance authority, which is set to sunset at the end of this year, until 2023.

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No evidence of Russian troops left behind in Belarus after Zapad 2017 drills – NATO chief

By ethan / October 26, 2017

NATO has not find any evidence to back the allegations of Russia leaving troops behind in Belarus, following the strategic Zapad-2017 drills, its chief Jens Stoltenberg has said.

The NATO Secretary General delivered his assessment at a news conference following a meeting of the Russia-NATO council Thursday.

“We don’t have any information indicating that Russia has left any troops behind in Belarus, and also Belarus clearly stated that Russian troops are not left behind. We’re still of course assessing the exercise but so far we’ve not seen any evidence of Russian troops left behind,” Stoltenberg said.

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FILE PHOTO: An U.S. M1 Abrams tank fires its main gun while taking part in Justice Eagle 17 joint military exercise alongside Romanian counterparts, at Smardan shooting range, in Galati county, Romania, April 20, 2017. © Inquam Photos / Octav Ganea

The joint September Russia-Belarus Zapad-2017 drills prompted massive hysteria in some NATO countries and its alliance partners months before the exercise even began. The accusations against Russia ranged from launching an attack on its neighbors under the guise of the drills to permanently leaving troops behind in Belarus.

As the exercises concluded and fears of an “invasion” evaporated, some officials, however, persisted in their narrative of Russia “leaving troops behind.”

Ukraine’s Chief of Staff, General Viktor Muzhenko, claimed late in September that he had “information” on Russian troops staying, as Moscow allegedly brought “significantly more” soldiers than was announced. The general, however, did not provide any details or proof to back his accusations.

Moscow has firmly denied the accusations, stating that all the troops had already returned home. While NATO did not find any signs of Russian soldiers allegedly left behind, Stoltenberg still accused Russia of exceeding the declared troop numbers and the scale of the drills.

“I think also what we have seen regarding the Zapad exercise underlines the importance of modernizing the Vienna Document because there are loopholes,” he said.

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© Alessandro Garofalo

The Vienna Document is an agreement between the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) members, calling on annual exchanges of military information, observation of military activities and other measures to reduce tensions between countries.

The accusations of “exceeding” the official figures have been voiced despite the Zapad-2017 drills demonstrating high levels of transparency. Apart from inviting some 90 foreign observers from 60 countries, Russia’s Ministry of Defence convened regular briefings ahead of the drills.

NATO, while peddling concerns around Zapad-2017, held massive parallel military exercises in Sweden, which involved almost twice as many troops as the Russian-Belarus drills and became the largest military event Sweden hosted in 23 years.

Moscow has repeatedly criticized the alliance’s military buildup on Russia’s borders and has called NATO’s actions provocative. Moscow added that it would respond accordingly, while stressing the defensive nature of Russia’s military exercises within its own borders.

It also reiterated that it’s open for dialogue with the western military bloc to address the most pressing issues and to avoid further tensions.

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Trump declares opioid epidemic a public health emergency

By ethan / October 26, 2017

Calling the opioid epidemic “the worst drug crisis in America,” President Donald Trump declared it a nationwide public health emergency and vowed to defeat the scourge of drug addiction.

Trump claimed the opioid crisis was ripping “the nation apart” and signed a measure that will mobilize his administration to address drug addiction and opioid abuse at the White House on Thursday.

He said the problem may “get worse before it get better” but vowed that it will ultimately get better.

Under the new measures, health officials will be able to access telemedicine services, including substance abuse treatment for people living in rural and remote areas. The Department of Health and Human Services will be be able to make temporary appointments of specialists to respond to the emergency. The Department of Labor will be allowed to issue worker grants to help those displaced from the workforce due to addiction, and shifts resources within HIV/AIDS programs to help people eligible for those programs receive substance abuse treatment.

The administration will also provide relief for state governments looking to access Medicaid funding for drug treatment centers with more than 16 beds.

Trump also promised more research funding for opioid alternatives, and “spending lots of money coming up with a non-addictive solution.” He also committed the government to a “massive advertising campaign” reaching out to young people to avoid drugs.

“It we can teach young people, and people generally, not to start, it’s really, really easy not to take them,” said the president, on stage with people whose lives had been touched by the opioid crisis.

Opening remarks came from the First Lady Melania Trump, who said she had taken a “larger interest in what I can do to fight the epidemic” and that she had been visiting and listening to people affected by the epidemic.

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© 007 David Parry / Global Look Press

On August 30, the US Attorney-General Jeff Sessions has said that current opioid crisis is one of the top “lethal issues” in the country. Sessions said that about “60,000 Americans lost their lives to drug overdoses” in 2016, a “big increase” from the 52,000 deaths the year prior.

The administration’s efforts come on the heels of the report by the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, saying that America faces the death toll equal to “September 11th every three weeks” as the epidemic claims the lives of up to 142 Americans every day.

Prescription opioids, such as the pharmaceutical brand Oxycontin, are drugs used for pain relief, and are often extremely addictive.

Early in his administration, Trump created a presidential commission headed by Governor Chris Christie (R- New Jersey) with the goal to study mechanisms to combat and treat the US opioid epidemic. The president said the commission’s report of recommendations is due next week.

The president’s declaration lasts 90 days and can be renewed. What the declaration didn’t add was any additional dollars to the Public Health Emergency Fund which currently contains $ 57,000, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

AP reported officials will be seeking more from Congress during the end-of-the-year budget negotiations.

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