TPM World News

LONDON (AP) — Charlie Gard, the critically ill British baby at the center of a legal battle that attracted the attention of Pope Francis and U.S. President Donald Trump, has died, according to a family spokeswoman. He would have turned 1 next week.

Charlie suffered from a rare genetic disease, mitochondrial depletion syndrome, which caused brain damage and left him unable to breathe unaided.

His parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, raised more than 1.3 million pounds ($1.7 million) to take him to the United States for experimental therapy they believed could prolong his life. But Charlie’s doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital objected, saying the treatment wouldn’t help and might cause him to suffer. The dispute ended up in court.

The case became a flashpoint for debates on health-care funding, medical intervention, the role of the state and the rights of children.

After months of legal battles, High Court Judge Nicholas Francis ruled Thursday that Charlie should be transferred to a hospice and taken off life support after his parents and the hospital that had been treating him failed to agree on an end-of-life care plan for the infant.

Under British law, it is common for courts to intervene when parents and doctors disagree on the treatment of a child. In such cases, the rights of the child take primacy over the parents’ right to decide what’s best for their offspring. The principle applies even in cases where parents have an alternative point of view, such as when religious beliefs prohibit blood transfusions.

The case made it all the way to Britain’s Supreme Court as Charlie’s parents refused to accept decisions by a series of judges who backed Great Ormond Street. But the Supreme Court agreed with the lower courts, saying it was in Charlie’s best interests that he be allowed to die.

The case caught the attention of Trump and the pope after the European Court of Human Rights refused to intervene. The two leaders sent tweets of support for Charlie and his parents, triggering a surge of grassroots action, including a number of U.S. right-to-life activists who flew to London to support Charlie’s parents.

The intervention of two of the world’s most powerful men made the case a talking point for the planet. Images of Charlie hooked to a tube while dozing peacefully in a star-flecked navy blue onesie graced websites, newspapers and television news programs.

Medical ethicist Arthur Caplan said the case shows how the medical profession is struggling to adjust to the age of social media, which puts the general public in the middle of decisions that in the past would have been private issues for doctors and the family.

“I do think that in an era of social media it is possible to rally huge numbers of people to your cause,” said Caplan, of New York University’s Langone Medical Center. “The medical ethics have not caught up.”

The heated commentary prompted Judge Francis to criticize the effects of social media and those “who know almost nothing about this case but who feel entitled to express opinions.”

But in the end, the increased attention did little for Charlie.

While offers of help from the Vatican’s Bambino Gesu children’s hospital in Rome and doctors at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York were enough to reopen the case, the High Court ultimately decided the proposed treatment wouldn’t help Charlie. His parents gave up their fight earlier this week after scans showed that Charlie’s muscles had deteriorated so much that the damage was irreversible.

“Mummy and Daddy love you so much Charlie, we always have and we always will and we are so sorry that we couldn’t save you,” his parents wrote when they announced their decision. “We had the chance but we weren’t allowed to give you that chance.

“Sweet dreams baby. Sleep tight, our beautiful little boy.”

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TOKYO (AP) — North Korea fired a ballistic missile Friday night which landed in the ocean off Japan, Japanese officials said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called a meeting of Japan’s National Security Council.

“I have received information that North Korea once again conducted a missile firing,” he said. “We will immediately analyze information and do our utmost to protect the safety of the Japanese people.”

There was no immediate announcement of the type of missile. On July 4, North Korea test-launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile.

Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said the missile launched Friday flew for about 45 minutes and landed off the Japanese coast in waters between Japan and the Korean Peninsula.

Japanese public broadcaster NHK said the coast guard issued safety warnings to aircraft and ships.

South Korea and the United States also confirmed the launch.

“We are assessing and will have more information soon,” said Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile was launched from North Korea’s northern Jagang province.

Analysts say the “Hwasong 14” ICBM launched by North Korea on July 4 could be capable of reaching most of Alaska or possibly Hawaii if fired in an attacking trajectory. It was launched at a very steep angle, a technique called lofting, and reached a height of more than 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean 930 kilometers (580 miles) away.

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ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s prime minister stepped down on Friday, hours after the country’s Supreme Court disqualified him from office in dramatic developments that have plunged the nuclear-armed nation into another major crisis.

A five-judge panel of the top court disqualified the thrice-elected Nawaz Sharif following a petition filed by the opposition, which had levelled corruption allegations against the prime minister and his family members.

It is not the first time the Pakistani judiciary has ordered dismissal of an elected prime minister. The court also ordered that criminal charges be filed against Sharif and his family.

The court panel, in a unanimous decision, said Sharif was disqualified for not remaining “truthful and honest” in the face of the evidence against him. It also ruled that Sharif could no longer serve as a member of the National Assembly, the powerful lower house of parliament.

The landmark ruling threw Pakistan, which is battling a stubborn militancy, into political disarray and triggered questions over who will succeed Sharif as prime minister — and even questions on who is leading the country at the moment.

Sharif’s supporters, though dismayed by the ruling, suggested that Pakistan’s powerful military — which had once before overthrown Sharif in a bloodless coup — were crowing at the court’s decision because they have viewed the prime minister as an upstart who sought to challenge the army’s authority.

The military, which has ruled for more than half of Pakistan’s 70-year-long history, is considered the country’s most powerful institution, a position it has been unwilling to see challenged.

Sharif’s political opponents, many of whom have questionable corruption records themselves, welcomed the court decision as a vindication of their months-long battle and proof that even the politically powerful can be held accountable.

Opposition supporters danced in the streets and opposition leader Imran Khan called on followers to head to Islamabad on Sunday for a major celebration in their legal battle against the “corrupt ruling elite.”

Khan congratulated the judiciary on dismissing Sharif and described the disqualification as a “good omen” for Pakistan. He told reporters at a news conference that he hopes all those who looted the nation’s wealth would face a similar fate.

The current case against Sharif and his family dates back to 2016, when documents leaked from a Panama-based law firm indicated that Sharif’s sons owned several offshore companies.

Sharif’s son Hussain Nawaz at the time acknowledged owning offshore companies but insisted they used legal money to set up businesses abroad.

However, the court-appointed investigators in July concluded a significant disparity existed between the Sharif family’s declared wealth and its known sources of income.

The Supreme Court on Friday also ordered Pakistan’s anti-corruption body to file corruption charges against Sharif, his two sons and daughter in the next six weeks for concealing their assets.

The panel also ordered corruption charges filed against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, a close relative of Sharif.

Sharif’s party expressed its disappointment over the court orders and urged their followers to remain calm and avoid confrontations.

“This decision is not surprising, but we are disappointed,” Information Minister Maryam Aurangzeb told reporters shortly after the ruling. She said their Pakistan Muslim League ruling party will issue a detailed reaction after consulting Sharif’s advisers.

The court also asked Pakistan’s figurehead President Mamnoon Hussain to “ensure continuation of the democratic process.”

Hussain was expected to convene the National Assembly once Sharif’s ruling party nominates his successor. That person would serve as prime minister until June 2018, when the next general elections are to be held.

In the jam-packed courtroom early Friday morning, the Supreme Court announced its decision and asked the Election Commission of Pakistan to issue a notification of Sharif’s removal. But Sharif quickly stepped down, saying he did it to show respect for the country’s judiciary.

However, in a statement, Sharif’s office said justice had not been served.

Sharif’s resignation has left constitutional experts at a loss to explain who is in charge in Pakistan until a successor is nominated. It wasn’t immediately clear when that would be or who it could be.

Legal experts say Sharif will now nominate a lawmaker of his choice to replace him under constitutional rules. They say Sharif’s nominee will be elected by the National Assembly, where the ruling party enjoys a comfortable majority.

Hashmat Habib, a legal expert, said the court’s order was binding and that Sharif and his family may not challenge it.

It’s not the first time that Pakistan’s judiciary has ordered the dismissal of an elected prime minister. In 2012, the court convicted the then-Premier Yusuf Raza Gilani in a contempt case, forcing him to step down.

Opposition lawmakers, who petitioned the court for disqualification of Sharif, welcomed the court decision, saying it was a victory for justice.

Sirajul Haq, who heads Pakistan’s Jamaat-e-Islami party, told reporters that he had been fighting a legal battle to ensure the accountability of the “corrupt ruling elite.”

Sharif’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz in a tweet said the prime minister was sent home, “but only to see him return with greater force.” She asked her party to “stay strong.”

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JERUSALEM (AP) — Prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque ended peacefully Friday amid two weeks of unrest over security at a major holy site in Jerusalem, Israeli police said, but violence flared in the West Bank, where a Palestinian was killed after he attacked soldiers.

Tensions have been high since Arab gunmen killed two police officers in the compound July 14, prompting Israel to install security devices at entrances to the site that is sacred to both Muslims and Jews.

The move outraged Muslims and sparked some of the worst street clashes in years and threatened to draw Israel into conflict with other Arab and Muslim nations. Under intense pressure, Israel removed the metal detectors this week and said it planned to install sophisticated security cameras instead.

Firas Dibs, an official from the Jordanian religious body that administers the sacred site, said tens of thousands attended Friday prayers.

The prayers ended without incident, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. There were some sporadic, low-level scuffles between Palestinians and Israeli forces nearby, but nothing on the scale of recent violence.

Police had barred men under 50 from the Jerusalem site and braced for violence following security assessments indicting Palestinians had planned protests there. There were no restrictions on women.

Muslims only returned to the site Thursday after about two weeks of praying in the streets nearby to protest the new security measures. They had claimed Israel was trying to expand its control over the site. Israel denied the allegations, insisting the measures were to prevent more attacks.

Four Palestinians have died in the past week and scores injured in violent clashes with Israeli security forces over the holy site.

The fate of the shrine is an emotional issue at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Even the smallest perceived change to delicate arrangements there can increase tensions.

Jews revere the hilltop compound as the Temple Mount, site of the two Jewish biblical temples. It is the holiest site in Judaism and the nearby Western Wall, a remnant of one of the temples, is the holiest place where Jews can pray.

The walled compound is home to both the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. It is Islam’s third-holiest site after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. Muslims believe the site marks the spot where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.

In the violence in the West Bank, a Palestinian was shot and killed after he brandished a knife at troops, Israel’s military said. No soldiers were hurt in the incident at the Gush Etzion Junction, the military added.

The busy intersection south of Jerusalem has been the site of multiple Palestinian attacks in the past two years.

Palestinians threw firebombs and rocks, and rolled burning tires at soldiers who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets at several protests in the West Bank, the military said.

On July 21, a Palestinian infiltrated a Jewish settlement in the West Bank and entered a home where he stabbed three people to death and wounded a fourth as they ate the traditional Sabbath meal and celebrated the arrival of a new addition to the family.

Israel has been coping with a wave of Palestinian violence that began in 2015 over tensions at the holy sites in Jerusalem. Attacks at times were a daily occurrence.

Since then, Palestinians have killed 48 Israelis, two visiting Americans and a British tourist in stabbings, shootings and car-ramming attacks targeting civilians and soldiers. In that same period, Israeli forces killed more than 256 Palestinians, most said by Israel to be attackers.

Israel blames the violence on incitement by Palestinian religious and political leaders. Palestinians say the attacks stem from anger and frustration at decades of Israeli rule in territories they claim for a state.

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LONDON (AP) — Britain will abide by some European Union rules for up to three years after it officially leaves the bloc in March 2019, the country’s Treasury chief said Friday.

Philip Hammond said a transition period is needed “to get from the status quo today to the new normal.” He said the transition should end before Britain’s next election, scheduled for 2022.

Many British businesses accuse the government of sending mixed signals about Brexit. Officials say Britain will leave the bloc’s single market and customs union, and end free movement from EU countries.

But officials also say the changes, which have huge economic implications, won’t happen overnight.

Hammond told Sky News that a transition period will let businesses “go on operating normally” while Britain works out its post-Brexit relationship with the EU.

His comments come amid conflict within the government between those, including Hammond, who want a compromise “soft Brexit” to ease the economic shock of leaving the EU, and those who want a clean, sharp break.

More than a year after Britons voted to leave the bloc, many aspects of the U.K.’s future relations with the EU remain unclear. That includes the nature of any trade relationship, and the status of some 3 million EU nationals who live in Britain.

Meanwhile, the prime minister of EU member Malta said he is starting to believe that Britain’s divorce from the European Union will not happen.

Joseph Muscat, whose country held the EU’s presidency for the first half of 2017, said he saw signs that British public opinion is turning.

In an interview with Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, he said he hopes a British politician will “stand up with the courage” to offer voters a new referendum on the final Brexit deal.

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MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s Foreign Ministry ordered a reduction in the number of U.S. diplomats in Russia on Friday and said it was closing down a U.S. recreation retreat in response to fresh sanctions against Russia.

The U.S. Senate approved a new package of stiff financial sanctions Friday against Russia, Iran and North Korea and sent it to President Donald Trump to sign.

The legislation bars Trump from easing or waiving the penalties on Russia unless Congress agrees. It is aimed at punishing Moscow for interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and for its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria, where the Kremlin has backed President Bashar Assad.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said, in response, it is ordering the U.S. Embassy in Russia to reduce the number of its diplomats by Sept. 1. Russia will also close down the embassy’s recreational retreat on the outskirts of Moscow as well as warehouse facilities.

The ministry said the number was being cut to 455 diplomats. U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Maria Olson could not immediately say how many people had to leave to meet Russia’s new requirements.

Olson said Ambassador John Tefft “expressed his strong disappointment and protest” with the move and passed the Russian government’s notification to Washington for review.

Relations between Russia and the United States dropped to a post-Cold War low following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, where fighting since 2014 has left 10,000 people dead. Reports of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election have put a damper on hopes for better ties that the Kremlin had pinned on Trump’s presidency.

The new package of sanctions aims to hit President Vladimir Putin and his inner circle by targeting allegedly corrupt officials, human rights abusers and crucial sectors of the Russian economy, including weapons sales and energy exports.

The bill underwent revisions to address concerns voiced by American oil and natural gas companies that sanctions specific to Russia’s energy sector could backfire on them to Moscow’s benefit. Lawmakers said they also made adjustments so the sanctions on Russia’s energy sector didn’t undercut the ability of U.S. allies in Europe to get access to oil and gas resources outside of Russia.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry dismissed the new sanctions as “creating unfair competitive advantages for the U.S. economy.”

“This kind of blackmail aimed at restricting the cooperation between Russia and other nations is a threat for many countries and global businesses,” the statement said.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Russian news agencies later Friday that he would not rule out further steps, adding that Russia’s “toolbox” of how to react to the new sanctions “doesn’t come down to” cutting the embassy staff and seizing the recreational retreat.

Russia’s response mirrors moves by outgoing President Barack Obama last December to expel 35 Russian diplomats and shut down two Russian estates in the U.S.

Moscow said it would cut the U.S. diplomatic corps even further if the U.S. decides to expel more Russian diplomats.

The Kremlin had previously said it would not impose any sanctions on the U.S. until Trump signs the bill.

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JERUSALEM (AP) — Clashes have erupted between Israeli police and Palestinians worshippers at a contested Jerusalem shrine, shortly after the site reopened following an 11-day Muslim prayer boycott.

Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets on Thursday as Palestinians threw stones inside the walled compound that is holy to Muslims and Jews.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said 37 Palestinians were hurt, including some by rubber bullets and beatings. It said several people suffered broken bones.

Israeli police say the police responded after stones were thrown at officers at the gates to the site.

The Red Crescent said tensions arose when Israeli troops closed one of the gates to the compound as large numbers of worshippers tried to enter.

The shrine had been at the center of an Israeli-Palestinian standoff over recent Israeli security installations at the site. Israel has removed the devices.

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RAQQA, Syria (AP) — U.S.-backed Syrian fighters have captured almost half of Raqqa from the Islamic State group, but the push into the northern city has slowed due to large amounts of explosives planted by the extremists and their counteroffensives, a spokeswoman for the fighters and a monitoring group said Thursday.

The assault on Raqqa by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led fighting coalition, began June 6, backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and U.S. troops advising the local forces. Since then, the SDF has made steady advances from the eastern and western sides of the city reaching the walled old quarter.

The capture of Raqqa, the Islamic State group’s self-proclaimed capital, would be a huge loss for the extremist group that earlier this month lost the Iraqi city of Mosul. But the liberation of Raqqa is still far off despite the progress.

Nisreen Abdullah, the Kurdish spokeswoman, told The Associated Press that the pace of the advance into Raqqa has slowed because of massive amounts of explosives laid by IS fighters. As the extremists become more surrounded, they have increased their suicide attacks against fighters of the SDF, she added.

“Raqqa has become a booby trapped city and this shows their (IS) weakness,” Abdullah, of the Women’s Protection Units, said speaking from northern Syria. “They are also using civilians as human shields and this is slowing the push as well.”

She said fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces, which includes the YPJ, now controls 45 percent of Raqqa. She added that since the offensive in Raqqa began, SDF fighters have fully captured eight neighborhoods.

Plumes of smoke could be seen behind buildings in Raqqa a day earlier as the coalition pounded IS targets in the city. Syrian children looked on as U.S. armored vehicles drove by. One American soldier on a vehicle made the victory sign.

Mustafa Bali, who heads the SDF media center, confirmed Thursday that the group now has half of Raqqa and said the most important areas liberated in the past four days were the Nazlet Shehadeh and Panorama Square neighborhoods — both on the southwestern part of the city. But he said there are IS counterattacks, IS sleeper cells and tunnels in the area.

“It was not easy, we have casualties and martyrs,” he said, adding that the fighting was ongoing.

In the eastern front, where SDF forces breached IS defenses on the edge of the old city about a month ago, fighters have now reached the old citadel, an SDF commander in charge of one sector in the front told AP.

“As we move forward we find a tunnel every 100 meters,” Jihad Khabat said. He said the enemy, “besieged and in distress,” hides in deep and long tunnels spread all under the city, from where they would appear and harass Syrian fighters with frequent daily counterattacks.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said SDF fighters control half of Raqqa.

The attacks on the city have claimed many civilian casualties among the tens of thousands who are still trapped in areas controlled by IS.

The Observatory said 29 people, including eight children, were killed in airstrikes on the city on Wednesday. The activist-operated Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently group said 36 people were killed and more than 50 wounded in airstrikes and shelling of Raqqa.

The reports could not be independently confirmed.

In central Syria, fighting edged closer to the IS stronghold of Sukhna, the last major town held by IS in the Homs province, according to the Observatory and the government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media.

SCMM said Syrian troops killed and wounded a number of IS fighters in battles near a mountain that overlooks the area. The Observatory said troops are now about 5 kilometers (3 miles) from Sukhna, which has been held by IS since the summer of 2015.

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Qatar has hired a Washington influence firm founded by President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager and another specialized in digging up dirt on U.S. politicians, signaling it wants to challenge Saudi Arabia’s massive lobbying efforts in America’s capital amid a diplomatic dispute among Arab nations.

The Gulf rift already has seen slogan-plastered taxicabs in London, television attack ads in the United States and competing messages flooding the internet and state-linked media on both sides since the crisis began on June 5.

Hiring a firm associated with former Trump aide Corey Lewandowski shows Qatar wants access to a White House with close ties to Saudi Arabia. Lewandowski left the firm in May.

But matching Saudi Arabia, which scored a diplomatic coup by hosting Trump’s first overseas trip, could be a tough battle for Qatar, even if it does boast the world’s highest per-capita income due to its natural gas deposits.

“The Qataris are belatedly working up to the scale of the challenge they face,” said Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a research fellow at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University who lives in Seattle. “This whole crisis, now that it’s kind of settled down into a prolonged confrontation or standoff, it’s become almost a struggle to win the hearts and minds in D.C.”

Qatar, in the midst of building stadiums for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, isn’t afraid to spend its money. Since the crisis began, Qatar paid $2.5 million to the law firm of former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to audit its efforts at stopping terrorism funding — one of the allegations levied by the Saudi-led quartet of nations.

According to documents newly filed to the U.S. Justice Department, Qatar has hired Avenue Strategies Global for $150,000 a month to “provide research, government relations and strategic consulting services.” The contract also says that activity “may include communications with members of Congress and Congressional staff, executive branch officials, the media and other individuals.”

Lewandowski founded Avenue Strategies just after the November election that put Trump in the White House. Lewandowski resigned from the firm in May, saying he was troubled by a firm-related project he hadn’t sanctioned. Others tied to Avenue Strategies had started a firm of their own, pitching Eastern European clients with promises of access to Trump and high-ranking White House officials.

The firm, which includes a former chief of staff to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu , did not respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press.

Qatar also signed a three-month, $1.1 million renewable contract with the opposition research firm Information Management Services, according to a Justice Department filing .

The firm, run by Jeff Klueter, a former researcher for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, did not respond to requests for comment. It advertises itself as doing so-called “oppo,” which includes digging into political opponents’ past and comments for incriminating or simply embarrassing material.

Qatar did not respond to a request for comment about the lobbying contracts. But it may serve as recognition that while Qatar has had success in speaking with the State Department and the Pentagon, it needs to make inroads to the Trump White House, Ulrichsen said.

Despite hosting a major U.S. military base, Qatar has been a target of Trump over its alleged funding of extremists, something Doha denies. Saudi Arabia enjoys close relations to Trump, as well as his son-in-law Jared Kushner.

In Washington, Saudi Arabia spends millions of dollars on lobbying, including a most-recent push to oppose a law allowing Sept. 11 victims’ families to sue the ultraconservative Muslim nation in U.S. courts . Its lobbying firms have been putting out memos on Qatar.

Meanwhile, an organization called the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee launched an online campaign called the Qatar Insider highlighting material critical of Doha. The committee also paid $138,000 to air an anti-Qatar attack ad on a local Washington television station, according to the Qatar-funded satellite news network Al-Jazeera.

“Our aim is to show the American people that Qatar has been employing a foreign policy that harms its neighbors and contributes to regional instability,” said Reem Daffa, the executive director of the committee, known by the acronym SAPRAC.

But while Daffa said SAPRAC does no lobbying, it has registered as a lobbying firm with Congress and tweeted a Qatar attack ad at Trump . It also has not filed paperwork with the Justice Department despite the committee being listed as entirely owned by a Saudi national .

The Foreign Agents Registration Act, first put in place over concerns about Nazi propagandists operating in the U.S. ahead of World War II, requires those working on behalf of other countries or their citizens to file regular reports to the Justice Department.

There are no similar rules in Britain, though the crisis recently could be seen on the streets of London. Pro-Qatar ads appeared on the city’s famous black taxis, bearing the message: “Lift the Blockade Against the People of Qatar.” Al-Jazeera Arabic even did a story about them.

But whether any of it will sway policy makers remains unclear.

“The prevailing view is that there are no perfect allies,” recently wrote Steven A. Cook, a senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations. “So whatever money the Gulf countries are spending in Washington, they should know it is not very well spent.”

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranian semi-official media are reporting that Iran has successfully launched a rocket carrying a satellite into space.

The website YJC.ir, which is affiliated with Iranian state television, as well as the semi-official Fars news agency, reported the launch on Thursday and said it was successful.

The launch comes as the United States has criticized Iran’s ballistic missile tests.

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